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BELGIUM 


The Official Account of 
what happened 
1939-1940 


Published for 

THE BELGIAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS 
by 

EVANS BROTHERS LIMITED, LONDON 


THE LIBRARY 
THE UNIVERSITY 
OF TEXAS 


CONTENTS 


1 NTKODUCTION 1X 

I Tnu International Situation of Belgium Before 

i i if. Conflict 1 

It Bi i (in i m ani> the European Conflict ... 7 

III Iiiii German Aggression 26 

IV i |o\y mi Bi i c»iAN Army Defended the Territory 32 


Appendices 

I .|,,m|i I.Y Mh Kill)' lo llu* Council of Ministers on 
nt iHl" i Mih, I'JW. . ... 

i |li Hh.lt I >•’< Inin I Ion of April 24th, 1937 . 

l m m It in Dm < IhuiiIm r ul h‘ fpicscntfitivcsby M. Spaak, 
ix l, n i in | hi I Oiupii Alla i is, on April 29th, 1937 . 

•I < inm.ni I )r» lit i nl ion of October 13th, 1937 

, | >. . hunt ion made by King Leopold on behalf of the 
I lends of the States of the Oslo Group, August 23rd, 

1939 

Declaration made by the Ambassador of Germany on 
August 26th, 1939 .... 

/. I )eclarations made by the Ambassadors of Great Britain 
and France on August 27th and 28th, 1939 . 

K. Declaration of Neutrality, September 3rd, 1939 , 

»> The King’s Order of the Day to the Army, September 
4th, 1939 

10. Speech by the King, Broadcast to the United States on 

October 27th, 1939 .... 

1 1 . Telegram from Queen Wilhelmina and King Leopold 

to the Heads of the States of Germany, France, and 
Great Britain, dated November 7th, 1939 
v 


53 

56 

57 

67 

68 

69 

70 
72 

77 

77 

79 




Vi CONTENTS 

Appendices (< continued ) 

12. Speech in the Chamber of Representatives by M. 
Spaak, Minister for Foreign Affairs, on December 


19th, 1939 SO 

13. Secret Instruction to the Commander of the Second 

Luftflotte found in a German Aeroplane on January 
10th, 1940 . .85 

14. Speech in the Senate by M. Spaak, Minister for Foreign 

Affairs, on April 16th, 1940 91 

1 5. Note by the Ministry of National Defence, dated March 

28th, 1940, on the Defensive Works carried out since 
the Beginning of the Conflict .... 96 

16. Measures taken by Belgium to strengthen the National 

Defence System 97 

17. Text of the Protest drawn up by the Belgian 

Government against the German Aggression of 
May 10th, 1940 ...... 100 

18. Proclamation by King Leopold, May 10th, 1940 . 102 

19. German Leaflets dropped in the Belgian Lines . . 102 

20. King Leopold’s Order of the Day, May 25th, 1940 . 104 

z,l. Statement by Lieut. -Colonel Robert Duncan Brown, 
United States Military Attachd to Belgium and 
Luxemburg 


22. The Belgian Campaign: Sir Roger Keyes v. Daily 

Mirror. (High Court of Justice, June 13th, 1941) . 106 


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 


PAGE 

( <>i*y on a Declaration made by the French Ambassa- 
dor August 28th, 1939 71 

FACING PAGES 

1 mi y on Secret Instructions of the German Command 88, 89 

PAGE 

1 1 »i*y c >1 ( iEUMAN Leaflets dropped in the Belgian Lines 103 

1 in King's Order of the Day to the Army, May 25th, 

|‘M() 105 


I IN I Ol MAPS 


M r I lm PniHlnN ON May 10 Til, 1940 ... 32 

Mm- ■ 1 m German Descent on the Line Eben- 

I .11 Him I, May 10th, 1940 ... 34 

Mm* 1 I he Position on May 13th, 1940 ... 38 

Mai* 4: Tub Threat to Abbeville, May 20th, 1940 . 42 

Map 5: The Last Stand, May 26th-27th, 1940 


vii 


48 


INTRODUCTION 


This is no time to embark on a complete history of 
the war in Belgium — too many essential facts are 
still missing. 

The German offensive of May 1940 was so 
dramatic and had such devastating results that it made 
a very deep impression on public opinion. People 
were badly shaken by such unexpected events ; they 
were bewildered, and found it difficult to understand 
what had happened. Under the emotional strain of 
those critical hours, feeling was so intense that the 
facts were distorted and twisted. The popular 
imagination seized on the kind of explanation that 
always flourishes in time of trouble : the disaster was 
said to be due to treason or, to use the current 
expression, to the work of a Fifth Column which was 
said to be assuming alarming proportions. Amongst 
thinking people some deemed it wiser to suspend 
judgment. 

A year has now elapsed. Many new facts have 
gradually come to light and their accuracy has been 
tested. We are also a little farther away and are 
able to judge them in their true perspective. 

In these circumstances, we have thought fit to 
bring together such of the principal documents as we 
have been able to obtain. They are arranged in 
chronological order, and are preceded by a com- 
mentary putting them in their proper setting and 
showing the connexion between them. The com- 
ments also describe the mission assigned to Belgium, 


X INTRODUCTION 

in agreement with the neighbouring Powers, in 
the arrangements for guaranteeing the security of 
Western Europe, and what she did to fulfil it. With 
the help of these documents, the reader should be 
able to form his own judgment. 

The series comes to an end with the surrender 
which brought the campaign of the Belgian Army to a 
close on May 28th. A second work on similar lines 
will deal with the steps taken by Belgium — with the 
co-operation of the British Government and the 
other Governments engaged in the common fight — 
to free her national territory. 

July, 1941. 


the library 

THE U! ‘ • VERSITY 
OF TEXAS 


I 

I HE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION OF BELGIUM 
BEFORE THE CONFLICT 

Wiii:n Belgium’s independence was guaranteed under the 
treaties of 1839, a regime of perpetual neutrality was 
imposed on her. In 1918, the British and French Govern- 
ment recognized that the changed situation in Europe made 
lli* hv. (oration of this regime out of the question. For four 
v< .ii . ih« Belgian Army fought, side by side with the British 
mi. I I i. *m li Armies to free Belgium’s national territory. 
\h. . it.. Armr.lkr, she shared the occupation of the left 

i. i.il <i| ill.- Bliliir with (hem In 1920, the Belgian and 
l n in I. * !• in i >il M.i 1 1 (••in hod mi agreement fixing the 

. Iinlctd (I '..i lei print ion between Belgium 

.mi. I I ...... in Hi. . .hi n| m IVosli unprovoked aggression 

h i ai hi. mv M 1 1 i.i i inn. ( ierinany was far from having 

I 1 1 • i ii hi. mi. iiIm lo the limits laid down in the 

I nni v n! Vn sallies. Al the same time Belgium was 
Minloir. lo conclude with Great Britain an arrangement 
pm\ i.llng for her security. But she was unable to overcome 

ii. . objections raised by the British Government. A pro- 
p. trial was, however, made in 1922. It provided that should 
« lernmny make a direct unprovoked attack on Belgium, 
< oral Britain would immediately come to her assistance 
with all her naval, military, and air forces, on the understand- 
ing that in such a contingency Belgium would defend her 
own frontiers with all her military, naval, and air forces. 
I bis proposal was turned down by the British Government 
because the condition laid down by Great Britain — a similar 
agreement with France — could not be fulfilled. 

Belgium hoped to obtain new guarantees through the 
League of Nations. She played an active part in drawing 
up the Covenant. She was a Member of the Council 
l 


2 BELGIUM BEFORE THE CONFLICT 

without a break until 1926. In 1920, her Minister for 
Foreign Affairs was President of the Assembly. On many 
occasions, particularly over the Corfu incident, she did not 
hesitate to insist on the application of the Covenant to 
Great Powers with whom she was on friendly terms. In 
1936, despite her ties with Italy, her first Delegate declared 
that Belgium would carry out all her obligations with regard 
to the application of sanctions. She assisted actively in the 
League’s attempts to secure the limitation and gradual 
reduction of armaments, and several of her delegates played 
an important part in this field. 

In 1925, Belgium, together with Great Britain, France, 
Germany, and Italy, signed the Locarno Agreements. She 
assumed a role in the organization of Western Europe which 
was subsequently to prove out of all proportion to the force 
at the disposal of a small State. That is to say, she under- 
took to assist Germany in the event of a French aggression 
or France in the event of a German aggression. But the 
risk seemed quite theoretical at that time. Europe appeared 
to be entering upon a period of pacification, concord, and 
international co-operation. 

Before long, however, matters took a very different turn 
and disillusiomnent set in. The economic depression of 
1930 had a shattering effect on Europe. Unemployment 
and poverty increased the feeling of discontent that was 
already beginning to find expression among the unsatisfied 
nations, and their nationalism became increasingly revolu- 
tionary and aggressive in character. The coming into 
power of the Hitler regime precipitated matters. It is only 
necessary, by way of a reminder, to mention a few of the 
more outstanding events. 

After Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich on January 
30th, 1933, Germany withdrew ostentatiously from the 
League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference. This 
happened on October 14th. On June 14th, 1934, Hitler and 
Mussolini had their first meeting at Venice ; on March 16th, 
1935, Germany repudiated the military, naval, and air 
clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, and announced that 


BELGIUM BEFORE THE CONFLICT 3 

m i isc i i pi ion would be introduced. This followed upon the 
nmouncement, a few days earlier, of the formation of a 
i mlilary air force; on October 2nd of the same year, Italy 
Invaded Ethiopia in flagrant violation of the provisions of 
l In* Covenant of the League of Nations. On March 7th, 
B> U>, ( Jcrman troops reoccupied the left bank of the Rhine 
i ml Ihe Treaty of Locarno was repudiated; on July 4th, the 
I ragin' of Nations admitted that sanctions had failed and 
dr i » > 1 1 1 i n ucd them. On July 17th, civil war broke out in 
Spain. 

lie i events, which followed upon one another with 
in* i. u .mg rapidity and were of increasing gravity, were a 

hr to Belgium of new threats to the peace of Europe 

mid miiM'qtienlly to her own security. By reducing her 
own iimininriils. Great Britain had allowed Germany to 
i* ii i m. mh mi hr i which she was unable to overtake; 

I sMr. * 1 1 * ii< d by a long financial, industrial, and 

• "id »iM; ll» liii* i national nrdci created after the 
w ni Id \\ H i nn lung! i mit it re 

I** I'Mti li I* nun hml hi to ill measures to strengthen the 

• I* h m «•*, i*l il unit ', I’ai hameivl passed a plan for 

0 ImiIiiji oi m I it n m b i in.* in)* the Belgian fortifications. In 
i- mi' ill 1 1 ili* | •• i.itioiis of I i 6 gc and Namur were reinforced. 

1 i* ■ fin* o| fl. fence were established along the canal from 
Mm im fit In Bois-le-Duc, the canal joining the Meuse and 
I « mil and the Albert Canal. 

I In protection of the eastern frontier, based mainly on 
ili* i lest ruction of a number of roads, was entrusted to new 
ini motions (frontier cyclist units, “ Chasseurs Ardennais ”). 

In the spring of 1935, these measures were almost com- 
plet'\, but even then they were no longer adequate. A 
i on Bagration might break out suddenly. There was not 
nl lie icnt protection against such a risk. In order that the 
i li ly of the country might at all times be ensured, the period 
of military service had to be prolonged, and provision was 
i ii; i do for this in a new Bill, but it was opposed by a large 
ici lion of the public. This was due, to a considerable 

• nn nt, to suspicion of Belgium’s international engagements : 


4 BELGIUM BEFORE THE CONFLICT 

it was feared that they v/ould involve her in conflicts far from 
home. The Coalition Government, consisting of Catholics, 
Socialists, and Liberals, then in power, had so far been 
unable to break down this prejudice. It was then that 
the King, conscious of his constitutional duties, made a 
new attempt to convince his Ministers of the need for 
improving the defences of the country, while at the same time 
allaying the anxiety of those who feared the risks involved by 
Belgium’s international obligations. That is the significance 
of the statement he made at the meeting of the Council con- 
vened at the Palace on October 14th, 1936 (Appendix 1). 
His speech made a great impression on the members of the 
Government; it was thought likely to remove the objections 
of the opponents of the Bill, and the King was asked whether 
it might be made public. The precise significance of the 
speech was not understood abroad ; it was taken as a new 
departure in Belgian policy. The only passage to attract 
attention was that relating to the international situation of 
Belgium. At first sight, it was not realized that, from the 
Government’s point of view, the object of the speech and the 
reason why it was published was to gain the support of the 
Belgian public for the proposal to strengthen the national 
defences. 

The British and French Governments, who had been better 
informed, had no doubt as to the position. They recognized 
that in the existing state of affairs in Europe Belgium’s 
attitude was justified. They readily admitted that any 
aggression of which she was the victim would constitute a 
direct threat to the neighbouring Powers ; that by protecting 
access to her territory, Belgium was making the most 
effective contribution towards the security of the surrounding 
States ; that in this way she was doing her utmost to fulfil her 
function in this part of Europe which was so often exposed to 
the ravages of war. 

It was in these circumstances that the Franco-British 
Declaration of April 24th, 1937, was made (Appendix 2). 

The British and French Govermnents took note of 
Belgium’s determination, expressed publicly and on more 


BELGIUM BEFORE THE CONFLICT 5 

than one occasion, to defend her frontiers with all her 
forces against any aggression or invasion, and to prevent 
Belgian territory from being used, for purposes of aggression 
against another State, as a passage or as a base of operations 
by land, by sea, or in the air. They therefore released 
Belgium from her undertakings to render assistance under 
the Locarno Treaty, while maintaining their own under- 
takings to render assistance to Belgium under the Treaty. 

The British and French Governments also took note of 
the renewed assurances of the Belgian Government “ of the 
lidelity of Belgium to the Covenant of the League of Nations 
and to the obligations which it involves for Members of the 
I ,eague.” Belgian policy was always based on that principle, 
blit experience had shown that the coercive measures pro- 
vided for in Article 16 of the Covenant were inoperative. 
In practice, as was clear at the time of the Sino-Japanese 
dispute in 1931, they were regarded as optional. This was 
explicitly recognized by most of the Members of the League 
of Nations at the 1938 Assembly, and their application was 
not even demanded when Germany committed acts of 
aggression in 1939. It may be remarked here that the 
Treaty of Locarno could not have been invoked had it 
remained in force. It did not guarantee Poland, but only 
the status quo on the Rhineland frontiers. Belgium was 
only to assist France in the event of an unprovoked act of 
aggression by Germany, and to assist Germany in the event 
of an unprovoked act of aggression by France. Neither of 
these two contingencies occurred. The decision of the 
British and French Governments to release Belgium from her 
obligation was not therefore in any way to change her 
position with regard to the events which marked the opening 
of the European conflict. 

Nevertheless, the negotiations undertaken after the 
repudiation of the Treaty of Locarno by Germany with a 
view to replacing the Treaty by a new general Act continued. 

I ngland had not at that time lost all hope of bringing them 
to a successful conclusion. No doubt she had begun to 
loarm. But in November 1936, the Prime Minister, Mr. 


6 BELGIUM BEFORE THE CONFLICT 

Baldwin, admitted that there had been some delay, and in j 
the spring of 1937 his successor, Mr. Chamberlain, showed 
his determination to combine the strengthening of defence 
measures with “ a substantial effort to remove the causes 
which are delaying the return of confidence in Europe.” 
This attempt was to continue until 1939, and it was only 
abandoned a very few months before the beginning of the war. 

That, at any rate, was the atmosphere in Europe in 1937. 
In January, Chancellor Hitler declared that he was prepared 
at any moment to recognize the inviolability of Belgian 
territory. Following up this intention he made a declaration 
to the Belgian Government on October 13th, the most impor- 
tant passages of which repeat the words of the Franco-British 
Declaration of April 24th (Appendix 4). 

The two declarations sanctioned what the Belgian Govern- 
ment has described as a “ policy of independence.” It used 
this expression in order to draw a distinction between that 
policy and the neutrality of Belgium, as laid down con- 
tractually before the German aggression in 1914 ; it intended 
at the same time to indicate that it reserved full liberty to act 
at any time in the interests of the country. If, bearing in 
mind the unstable situation in Europe, it restricted Belgium’s 
international undertakings, that was first from motives of 
honesty : it did not want to undertake obligations which were 
regarded as excessive by a large section of the public and 
which it was not sure of being able to fulfil. Secondly, it 
was with the intention of concentrating the national forces. 
If they were all to be mobilized, it was necessary that the 
country should concentrate on one urgent and indisputable 
duty, and one only— national defence. It was essential that 
immediately an act of aggression was committed, the whole 
nation, fully aware that it was blameless, should rise up as 
one man, just as it did in August 1914 (Appendix 3). 1 

1 Mr. Winston Churchill defended a similar policy in Parliament on 
November 23rd, 1932, when he said : “ Their duty is not only to try, within 
the restricted limits which, I fear, are all that is open to them, to prevent war, 
but to make sure that we ourselves are not involved in one, and, above all, to 
make sure that, if war should break out among other Powers, our country 
and the King’s Dominions can be effectively defended, and will be able to 
preserve, if they desire to do so, that strong and unassailable neutrality from 


II 


BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 


In the spring of 1939, when Germany suddenly invaded 
Czechoslovak territory, no shadow of doubt remained: 
Europe was moving rapidly towards a general conflict. 
This was a distressing prospect for all peace-loving nations. 
Belgium, though she felt powerless before the coming storm, 
continued to the end to do everything in her power to ward 
it off. 

She had not forgotten the Great War and four years 
of enemy occupation. She realized that the totalitarian 
countries, with their worship of force, would display 
unparalleled brutality in a new war. She was also aware 
that they had forged a formidable weapon to ensure su- 
periority on land and in the air, and above all, that their 
Air Force was far bigger than the Air Forces of the great 
Democracies. 

Belgium reflected upon the ordeal which faced Europe and 
a great part of mankind ; she also reflected upon the risks to 
which she was herself exposed. Her policy had undoubtedly 
been a prudent one, and at the same time she had made a 
great mili tary effort. But experience had taught her that, in 
spite of declarations and solemn undertakings, she would be 
in grave danger, in the event of a European conflict, of being 
used once again as the battlefield of the Great Powers. 

Her anxiety was shared by the small States on the North 
Sea and the Baltic, which had for several years been in the 


which we must never be drawn except by the heart and conscience of the 

“in 0 ”' speech in Parliament on March 8th, 1934, he reverted to the same 
idea : “ . . . But, putting the preservation of peace in the first place, what is the 
next great object that we must have in view ? It is to secure our rotional 
freedom of choice to remain outside a European war, if one should break out. 
That I put as the more direct and more practical issue, subordinate to, but 
not less important than, the preservation of peace.” 

2 7 


BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 

habit under the name of the Oslo Group, of exchanging 
views from time to time about questions of mutual interest 
connected with the League of Nations. These consultations 

fideLe Tnd h a H SP f rlt ° f ^ COrdiality and mutua * con- 
hdence, and had, of course, nothing to do with political or 

mditary obligations. Thus, in July 1938, when the inter- 

P°" a Sltuatl °n already looked black on account of events 

^ n a ’ thC F ° reign Ministers of the Oslo States 

met at Copenhagen, and after their exchange of views 
declared themselves “prepared, for their part, to collab- 
orate in any international attempt at conciliation in a spirit 
iSl; M'Pondence tow,„h th, various 

In August 1939, war seemed to be imminent The 
Governments of these small States accepted a suggestion 
put forward by Belgium and agreed to make a last effort to 
save Peace When negotiations between the Great Powers 
seemed to be broken off for good and all, an appeal on 
humanitarian grounds might possibly enable them to set 

SLTm- ,° f PreStige and re °P en conversations. Thl 
Au 'uft nT l wer f convened urgently to Brussels on 
, 23rd ’ , where the y adopted a declaration. King 

reiTim ’ n pe f kln ? ° n behalf of the heads of the Oslo States, 
the^ik laration to the whole world on the same day at 

InneaMn Falace . (Appmdix 5). It was a heartrending 
appeal to public opinion to pull itself together and not to 

althmioh u the lde f th ,f a catastr °phe was inevitable. But 
sb tb ® a PP eal called for a pacific settlement, there was 
no ambiguity, no question of resignation in the face of 
wolence and accomplished facts. “ Let there be no mistake!” 
e King. The peace that we want is peace with 
respect for the rights of all nations. A durable peace cannot 

b Tit Se p ° n f0r ? ' Tt Ca “ 0nly be based on a moral order.” 
Po P e a, id many Governments associated themselves 
with the appeal. The British and French Governments fully 
sympathized, and pointed out that they had always urged the 

GefmTnv u? “ eth0ds of a11 international difputes. 
Germany and Italy made no comment. 



BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 9 

A few days later, on August 26th, the German Ambassador 
at his own request was received by the King in the presence 
of the Prime Minister. He declared of his own accord that 
the Government of the Reich was firmly determined to com- 
ply with the terms of the German Declaration of October 
1 3th, 1937, according to which the Reich would in no circum- 
stances impair the inviolability and integrity of Belgium, but 
would at all times respect Belgian territory (Appendix 6). 

On the following days, the Ambassadors of Great Britain 
and France also gave an assurance, on behalf of their 
Governments, that should the efforts of these Governments 
to maintain peace fail, and should Belgium, in such a con- 
tingency, adopt an attitude of neutrality, they were resolved, 
in accordance with their traditional policy, fully to respect 
Belgium’s neutrality (Appendix 7). 

On August 28th, the situation became even more critical. 
Queen Wilhelmina and King Leopold, being anxious to the 
last to leave nothing undone, however slight, to avert the 
danger, made an offer of their good offices to Great Britain, 
France, Poland, Germany, and Italy. The representatives of 
these countries were called upon one by one by M. Pierlot 
in Brussels and simultaneously by M. van Kleffens at The 
Hague. 1 

But nothing could be done to stem the tide of events. 

On September 1st, the German Army entered Poland. 
Germany refused to withdraw her troops, and Great Britain 
and France therefore considered themselves to be in a state of 
war with her on September 3rd. 

The dreaded disaster had occurred. 

From that time Belgium’s duty was plain. It had been 
clearly laid down in 1936 ; it was not discussed and there was 
no ambiguity about it. Great Britain and France on the 
one hand and Germany on the other had taken note of it 
in 1937, solemnly indicating their approval. Furthermore, 
they had confirmed it several days earlier in their statements 

1 The offer was renewed on November 7th in circumstances which will be 
described later on. 


10 BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 

Of August 26th, 27th, 28th, 1939. “ Once again I arrived at 
the reassuring conviction,” said the Foreign Minister in 

the. Chamber on A P nI 16th > 1940, “ that our foreign policy 

' P erfectl y c °rrect. Few countries can have 
defined their objectives so clearly; confined themselves to 
promises they could be sure of keeping; enlightened their 
neighbours as to their intentions. There was not-there is not 
—any change, any element of surprise. Whatever happens 
nobody can say Belgium deceived them ” (Appendix 14) 
Now that the Great Powers of the West were at war with 

adopted° ther ' Be ‘ 8IUm had t0 foUow the P olic y she had 
Politically, she was in much the same position as in 1914 

55^** f, s in l 9 ! 4 ’ was her highest interest 
aithfully and loyally to fulfil her international obligations, 
le was under no obligation to take part in the war. The 
Rhine Pact did not apply, and in any case it did not bind her 
The League of Nations was not asked to take action, and if 
it had been, its recommendations would have been optional. 

On the other hand, the position taken note of in the 
Declarations of Great Britain, France, and Germany in 
' 937 ™P’/ Cd ih at m such a conflict Belgium would be neutral. 

e had therefore to fulfil the obligations imposed on neutral 
Mates under international law. On September 3rd, the 

^ppendk P 8) b lShCd Belgian Declaration of Neutrality 

In the economic sphere, difficult questions immediately 
arose, because the belligerents took opposing views. The 
Belgian Government based all its negotiations with them on 
two principles. First, it endeavoured to safeguard Belgian 
interests autonomously by prohibiting or regulating the 
export of such foodstuffs and essential raw materials as were 
not produced in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of the 
country. The second principle was based on Article 9 of 
the Hague Convention, which prohibited neutral States from 
imposing any prohibition or restriction on a belligerent State 
which it did not similarly impose on other belligerent States. 
These two principles were hardly open to question. They 



BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 11 

did, of course, involve a heavy reduction in Belgian exports 
to Germany; but there was no legal ground for Germany’s 
protests. Great Britain and France recognized that they 
provided all the guarantees they could reasonably expect. 

Belgium’s duty was most obvious in the military sphere. 

1 1 ere, it is sufficient to refer to the terms of the Declarations 
or 1937, when Germany, as well as Great Britain and France, 
took note of the Belgian Government’s determination (a) to 
defend the frontiers of Belgium with all its forces against any 
aggression or invasion, and to prevent Belgian territory 
from being used, for purposes of aggression against any 
other State, as a passage or as a base of operations by land, 
by sea, or in the air ; ( b ) to organize the defence of Belgium 
i n an efficient manner for this purpose. 

Since 1912 Belgium had had a system of compulsory 
general service. In peace-time she had six infantry divisions 
and two cavalry divisions, forming three army corps and one 
cavalry corps. From 1934 there were also frontier guard 
units and the “ Chasseurs Ardennais.” In war-time Belgium 
could, by means of general mobilization, raise an army of 
twenty infantry divisions, one cavalry corps and troops for 
the fortifications— about 650,000 men in all. 

In 1930, as we have already seen, she restored and improved 
her fortifications; in 1935 she tried to provide greater 
protection by extending the period of service, and this was 
increased to seventeen months under a law passed at the 
beginning of 1937; at the same time, she maintained her 
annual contingent in spite of the years when the birth-rate 
was low ; she improved and added to her material, mechanized 
the whole of the cavalry, and extended and developed the 
training of units on active service and in the reserve. 

When the crisis occurred in September 1938, she called up 
several classes and put twelve infantry divisions on a war- 
time footing. Partial mobilization was costly, but it was a 
useful experiment and enabled improvements .to be made. 
A more flexible system was introduced by which mobiliza- 
tion was divided into five successive stages, A to E. 

As a frontier country at the outposts of Germany and 


12 BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 

France Belgium had to be on her guard, during an inter- 
national crisis, immediately the neighbouring Powers took 
military measures, so as to avoid being taken by surprise. 
As in the past, tms rule was scrupulously observed 

a j s fr .°. m 24th and 25th, Army leave was cancelled 

and soldiers on leave were recalled. On the 25th was 
decided Stage A of mobilization. This was the first of the 
provisions for putting our military machine on a war-time 
footing. On the 26th a Royal Decree declared that the 
country was in a state of mobilization. Its object was to 

the entry int ° force of several Ie §islative and 
administrative measures provided for in the event of an 
international crisis. The Decree was therefore not an order 
or general mobilization. On the contrary, it explained 
that mobilization of the Army would be spread over 
several stages on the orders of the Minister of National 
efence. On August 28th, mobilization passed to Stage 
B, this involved the supervision and guarding of the fron- 

of^rfifipH 1 pr ? lectl0n and °f >servati on. The garrisons 

all nnWp P ?r S were reinforced - At the same time, 
all pnvate and foreign aircraft were prohibited from flying 

over Belgian territory and territorial waters, with the excep- 
tion of aircraft of regular fines and aircraft holding an 
authorization from the Ministry of Communications 

n 2> * f ° pening hostilities in Poland, the Minister of 
National Defence ordered Stage C of mobilization, which 
involved the calling up of units of the first reserve. This was 
completed by September 3rd. 

On September 4th, the King issued an Order of the Day 
under Article 68 of the Constitution, announcing that he had 
taken command of the Army (Appendix 9). On the 10th 

of n trdn^° f reSerVe UnitS Were recalled for a Period 

Po^n r rl ng f^ ePtem , ber ’ r he German offensi ve was aimed at 
oland, the western front remained calm. France did 

not have sufficient effectives, or material, or aeroplanes to 
engage successfully in offensive operations. By the middle 


BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 13 

of' September, mobilization was proceeding systematically, 
and about fifty divisions had been called up. England had 
sent three divisions to the Continent. 

At that time, Poland had already virtually succumbed to 
(he attacks of armoured divisions and a formidable air 
force. The campaign in the east was at an end, and in a 
speech in the Reichstag on October 6th, Chancellor Hitler 
described the results achieved. In the favourable circum- 
stances produced by his military successes, he seemed 
disposed to enter into peace negotiations. However, the 
German armies were brought back from the eastern front 
and the whole of the forces were placed on the western 
frontier. Over fifty divisions were concentrated on the left 
bank of the Rhine on the frontiers of southern Holland and 
Belgium. From that moment hardly a week passed without 
the Belgian military authorities receiving information of 
steady reinforcements of both men and materials in this area : 
new divisions, the number facing the Dutch and Belgian 
frontiers increasing to nearly seventy; large quantities of 
material for bridge-building for crossing watercourses, 
munition dumps, aerodromes, etc. The Belgian Army 
Command was therefore compelled progressively to increase 
its precautionary measures, and to carry on with the mobili- 
zation of the Army, so that it was soon almost up to a war- 
time footing. 

On several occasions the Belgian military authorities 
received information which led them to fear an immediate 
act of aggression. The effect of these warnings was to 
speed up the mobilization of the Belgian forces and to 
stimulate arrangements for putting the country in a complete 
state of defence. 

The first “ alert ” occurred at the end of October. 
Holland appeared specially threatened. According to 
information reaching the Netherlands authorities, a surprise 
German attack was to be launched at dawn on Sunday, 
November 12th. Alarming signs were brought simul- 
taneously to the notice of the Belgian Government. 

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands has 


4 <?&£> 


14 BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 

described how he decided, in the circumstances, to suggest 
to Queen Wilhelmina that she should renew the offer of 
good offices previously made on August 28th in conjunction 
with King Leopold. 1 This suggestion was made in Brussels 
on Monday, November 6th. So that no time should be lost, 
the King left for The Hague the same evening, accompanied 
by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Military Adviser. 
The draft was completed on the following morning and was 
sent in the afternoon to the King of England, the President 
of the French Republic, and the Chancellor of the German 
Reich (Appendix 11). Alarming news about Germany’s 
military intentions continued to arrive during the next few 
days, and it appeared to confirm that an attack was imminent. 
Then, all of a sudden, the plans for aggression seemed to 
have been abandoned. Was this really the case, or was it 
only a blind ? Even now it is impossible to be sure. How- 
ever, the information as a whole was sufficient to justify 
most elaborate precautions. 

During the first fortnight of January, there was another 
grave warning, and all forms of national defence were 
pushed forward as quickly as possible. 

A German courier plane made a forced landing at 
Mechelen-sur-Meuse in Belgian territory on January 10th 
The two officers on board said that they had lost their way 
in the fog above the Ruhr basin and the valley of the Rhine. 
One of the two officers had some confidential papers which 
he twice tried to burn. He almost succeeded the second 
time: he managed to throw them suddenly into a lighted 
stove while he was being questioned, but a Belgian officer 
rushed forward, put his hand in the stove and pulled them 
out of the flames three-parts burned. They consisted of 
instructions to the squadron-leader of No. 2 Air Fleet about 
the offensive which the German Western Army was to carry 
out across Belgium from the Moselle to the North Sea. 
The Sixth German Army was specially instructed to destroy 
the Belgian Army, launching its main attack in the Maastricht 
district ; the Seventh Air Force Division, conveyed by air, was 

1 Van Kleffens, The Rape of the Netherlands, pp. 85-8. 


BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 15 

to land between the Sambre and the Meuse (Appendix 13). 

Was the document authentic ? Was it really an accident 
that it had fallen into the hands of the Belgian Army ? A 
thorough enquiry was made, and the hypothesis of a trick 
was dismissed. It was certainly a severe winter, and snow 
and frost hardly seemed propitious to military operations. 
But it was clear from the papers that it would be easier for 
German air-borne troops to land if the ground was hard 
with frost. Other disturbing news which came to hand at 
the same time seemed to confirm this. It was feared that 
the German Command, learning that important parts of the 
plan of operations had fallen into the hands of the Belgian 
authorities, would carry it through at once, so that there 
would be no time to counter the attack. 

As this plan involved a threat to England, France, the 
Netherlands, as well as Belgium, their military authorities 
were immediately informed. 

The Army remained at the ready for several days ; then, 
as no important troop movements on the frontier had been 
reported, it was concluded that the attack had again been 
postponed. 

However, important additions were made to the Belgian 
defences. The Army continued to organize its positions. 

The Belgian Army was disposed as a covering force on 
positions along the Albert Canal from Antwerp to Liege and 
along the Meuse from Liege to Namur. Advanced units 
and demolition squads deployed from the German and 
Netherlands frontier were to hamper the invader and prevent 
contact on this protective position. This was a very strong 
position, and the natural obstacles were supplemented and 
reinforced by means of a large number of fortifications and 
fieldworks. But there were three serious drawbacks : 

(1) It was a long way from the French frontier. 

(2) It was very extended (over 200 kilometres). 

(3) It was semi-elliptical. 

Owing to its distance from the French frontier, no Franco- 
British help could be expected on that line. Yet by itself 


16 


BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 


the Belgian Army could not engage the German forces on 
a front of over 200 kilometres without running the risk of 
being annihilated. Again, being a semi-ellipse with the 
point at Liege, it was dangerously exposed to flank attacks, 
particularly in the north, where a local break-through would 
irreparably threaten the whole position. 

Quite clearly the Albert-Meuse Canal position could only 
be a covering position. If the Belgian Army were to offer 
resistance there, the Franco-British forces and the bulk of 
the Belgian Army would have time to occupy a position 
connecting the fortified towns of Antwerp and Namur. This 
line, which runs through Koningshoyckt-Malines-Louvain- 
Wavre, is known as the K.W. position, after the places at 
?«5 5 e !l d - The construction of the line K.W. was begun in 
tyjy. The experience gained during the construction of 
the Liege and Namur fortifications and the lessons learnt 

mn" 1 Span 3 s . h War were largely taken into account, 
me K.W. position comprised a large number of works 
spread over several lines. The front was protected by a con- 
tinuous anti-tank barrier and by arrangements for flooding 
wlnle anti-tank traps were provided well inside the position’ 

There was also an underground telephone system and a road 
system. 

The Belgian line thus embraced the fortified town of 
Antwerp, the K.W. line, and the fortified town of Namur 
Un this position— supported at the North Sea by the 
fortified town of Antwerp and extended south and con- 
nected with the Maginot Line by the Meuse cutting— the 
Belgian Army-with the help of the Franco-British forces 
expected on the third day of the war— had decided to engage 
in the battle which was to stem the invasion. 

This defence line had for long been known as one of 
the most important strategic lines in Western Europe. It 
was very near the line of the armies of Louis XIV when 
Belgium was defended against the Coalition forces under 
Marlborough. 

The Belgians are well aware of the price their country has 
had to pay for the doubtful privilege of being used as a 


BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 17 

battlefield by its powerful neighbours. It was therefore not 
without some apprehension that the Belgian Government 
contemplated the stabilization of the front on the Antwerp— 
Namur line. Indeed, its choice meant the certain destruc- 
tion of the chief towns of Belgium — Brussels, Antwerp, 
Malines, Louvain, Namur, Lierre, Gembloux. It also meant 
handing over half the national territory to the enemy. 

The fortifications were not confined to the K.W. line. 
The other positions were constantly improved. Prepara- 
tions were made for extensive destructions, particularly of 
roads, all along the front and in the Ardennes; all the 
bridges and principal routes were mined; obstacles were 
placed everywhere. On the National Railway Company’s 
system alone 137 kilometres of track, 310 points and cross- 
ings, and 339 bridges and tunnels had been destroyed by the 
end of the May campaign. 

Full advantage was taken of the months gained at the 
beginning of the war— fieldworks were under construction, 
reserve formations were called up and thoroughly trained, 
Belgium had at that time twenty infantry divisions, one 
motorized brigade, and a mechanized cavalry corps not only 
well-equipped, armed and officered, but trained and familiar 
with the ground. All the higher officers and many of the 
reserve officers were veterans of the 1914 war; they had 
taken part in the victorious offensive of 1918, and still 
remembered the victory over the German armies. The 
troops were proud of their strength, the worth of their 
material, the soundness of their positions. 

To form a strong army of 600,000, Belgium had to 
mobilize 8 per cent, of her total population, or 46 per cent, 
of the men between twenty and forty years of age. It was 
a tremendous effort and strain (Appendix 16). 

Although the soldiers’ pay and the allowances to the 
families of those who were called up were relatively small, 
mobilization involved financial burdens which were crushing 
in comparison with Belgium’s resources. At the beginning 
of 1940, the daily expenditure, including extraordinary 
expenditure on fortifications, was 21 million francs. Other 


18 BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 

extraordinary expenditure amounted to 3-5 million francs a 
day ; the ordinary budget was 12 thousand million francs per 
annum; the total estimated to be borne by the State in 
1941 amounted to nearly 21 thousand million francs. 

Though great sacrifices were made, the national defences 
were not complete. The Air Force was not up to the same 
standard as the Army. The reason is simple. Technical 
progress is so rapid that air material is soon out of date 
It has therefore to be written off after a short time, and 
this entails considerable expense. The Army had British 
machines, and when the danger became more acute, Belgium 
tried to obtain more. But British industry had to meet 
pressing national requirements, and the Belgian Army was 
only able to obtain a few Hurricanes. 

Another factor had to be taken into account. The 
aerodromes of a frontier country like Belgium are highly 
exposed, because of their proximity to the German bases. 
Belgian material, despite the precautions taken, was in 
danger of being destroyed during a sudden attack. In any 
event, in such a contingency, Belgium could not expect’ to 
defend herself without help. She was counting on the aid 
of the Powers that had given their guarantee. In the air, 
this help appeared to be possible at once. Belgium was 
justified in relying on the French and British Air Forces to 
defend her skies. 

Although Belgian air power was weak, Belgium did her 
duty, thanks to her fully organized observer corps and to the 
courage of her pilots, when belligerent aircraft flew over her 
territory. 

In taking steps to safeguard the defences of the country 
she followed the dictates of conscience as to her duty 
to herself and to other States. She was convinced that 
Belgian interests were the same as the interests of the 
owers with whom she sympathized. Parliamentary de- 
bates, Government declarations in both France and England, 
left no doubt that the rearmament of these Powers was not 
up to the same standard as that of Germany. It was known 
that the industrial mobilization and material assistance of 



BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 19 

I lie United States would not be fully effective for a long time. 
During that period, Belgium protected the vital areas of 
I ii gland and France. As far as the latter was concerned, a 
I ; rench General remarked in a well-known book that Belgian 
neutrality, as long as it was respected, “ would strengthen 
Prance considerably ... by reducing the length of our front 
of 250 kilometres which the Belgian Army could not hold 
alone.” 1 

Great prominence had been given in the Belgian Press, 
during the spring of 1940, to statements made in England 
according to which it was fortunate that Germany had 
not launched a full-scale attack on the western front at 
the beginning of the war. It was said that time had thus 
been given to France and England to pursue the mobiliza- 
tion of their national resources and bring their war effort 
to the maximum. 

Eminent French publicists have since disclosed that M. 
Daladier, President of the Council, and General Gamelin, 
were concerned in the same way about their country. 2 

Belgian public opinion noted with satisfaction the increas- 
ing evidence that the requirements of national defence were 
in keeping with her sympathies, for she did not admit that 
political neutrality meant she must keep silent. “ This 
voluntary neutrality,” said M. Max, Burgomaster of 
Brussels, at a meeting of the Communal Council on Septem- 
ber 17th, 1939, “ is fully in keeping with the dignity appro- 
priate to a proud people. It does not prevent either 
independence of thought, or liberty of conscience, or loyalty 
to our friends.” Public opinion was suspicious of any 
attempt to check these sentiments. Moreover, the Govern- 
ment, though recommending moderation, affirmed the same 
principle. “ No one,” said the Minister for Foreign Affairs 
in the Chamber on September 19th, “ has ever maintained 
that a neutral Belgian must be an indifferent Belgian. And 
the history of to-day cannot efface the history of yesterday. 

1 General Chauvineau, Une invasion est-elle encore possible , p. 193. 

2 Elie J. Bois, Truth on the Tragedy of France , pp. 98, 170; Andr6 Maurois, 
Tragedie en France, p. 77. 


20 BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 

Such truths have often been proclaimed, and not a member 
of the Government would deny them.” The Minister’s 
words were thus in harmony with those of the Burgomaster 
of Brussels. 

The Government, with the approval of public opinion 
was careful to see that Belgian independence and national 
dignity were maintained. The Press severely criticized 
German acts of aggression as well as violations of inter- 
national law and of the most elementary laws of humanity. 
Germany protested in vain at such freedom of opinion.' 
She induced all the neutral States of Europe to prohibit the 
sale of the books which were most critical of the dangers and 
evils of Hitler’s Reich, such as those of Dr. Rauschning and 
Otto Strasser. Brussels was approached many times in the 
same sense, but refused. 

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking in Parliament, 
condemned the Russian aggression in Finland. “The 
Government,” said M. Spaak, on December 19th, “is 
indignant. In the same spirit of independence, speaking 
in the Senate on April 16th, he expressed Belgium’s 
sympathy with Norway, which had been suddenly attacked. 

“ We are following Norway’s efforts all the more sympa- 
thetically,” he said, “ in that she was always a great lover 
of peace and was loyally neutral.” (Hear, hear. Applause 
from all benches.) “ She was therefore in much the same 
position as ourselves. Her sentiments were our sentiments ” 
(Appendix 14). 

The Minister did not stop there. He warned Belgium 
of the lesson to be learnt from this bitter experience. “ What 
strikes me most,” he said, “ in Norway’s heroic stand is that 
love of peace, respect for neutrality, the often-repeated desire 
to spare one’s country the horrors of war do not in any way 
diminish but rather heighten the fierce determination to 
defend the soil of the Fatherland when it becomes necessary.” 
(Loud applause.) 

Belgium has sometimes been classed with the small States 
determined to defend themselves to the last against an 
attack, but equally determined not to anticipate aggression. 


BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 21 

This is a view that calls for correction. The moment the 
conflict broke out, Belgium realized that the Netherlands 
might be attacked while she herself was spared, at least for 
I lie time being. On several occasions — particularly at the 
end of October — there were grave reports which appeared to 
confirm this supposition. Holland appeared at that time to 
be in far graver danger than Belgium. On November 6th, 
King Leopold left for The Flague. Although his interview 
with Queen Wilhelmina was about the Netherlands proposal 
that they should renew their offer of good offices, it is 
significant that he was accompanied by the General who 
was his Military Adviser. The Government discussed the 
attitude to be adopted in such a contingency, but although 
the discussion was secret, considerable space was devoted to 
it in the international Press. The resolutions adopted were 
outlined in the Chamber on December 19th in a speech by 
the Minister for Foreign Affairs. “ I want,” said M. Spaak, 
“ to be quite free to form a judgment in the light of all the 
facts. For that reason, I think it would be unwise to decide 
now what attitude we should have to adopt if the situation 
in Holland changes. But I should like to make it clear that 
it would be madness to suppose such an event would leave 
us indifferent. As far as I am concerned — and I am sure 
I am speaking for the whole Government — I am deeply 
conscious of all the ties that bind Belgium and the Nether- 
lands ” (Appendix 12). There was no doubt as to the 
meaning of these words. They were loudly applauded. 
Such an attitude fully conforms to the “ policy of inde- 
pendence ” as understood by the Belgian Government. 
Public opinion was almost unanimous in approving it; 
the Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking in the Senate on 
April 17th, three weeks before the aggression, fully con- 
firmed his earlier statements. 

Was it necessary to do more ? 

On several occasions Belgium believed she was on the 
verge of being attacked by Germany. She had been made 
aware that such an attack had been closely studied. She 
had not remained passive. She had drawn all the conclu- 


22 BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 

sions which her concern for her security forced upon her. 

On the outbreak of the conflict, the Belgian forces were 
placed in such a way as to protect all the frontiers. The 
Government intended to act strictly in accordance with the 
correct and loyal attitude she had always adopted. But 
once a powerful German Army was concentrated near 
Belgian territory and the representatives of the Reich them- 
selves seemed to think there might be an attack, the King, 
with the full approval of the Government, felt quite justified 
in diverting the whole of the Belgian forces to where the 
danger undoubtedly threatened. The units in the west were 
withdrawn and sent to the east. On several occasions, the 
Reich made remarks or criticisms on this subject. The 
Belgian Government constantly refused to take account of 
them, as it felt that the steps taken were fully justified by the 
German Army’s preparations for aggression. 

Belgium had yet another cause for anxiety, in addition to 
the impending danger. She was unable to meet aggression 
by herself. Great Britain and France had undertaken to 
assist her, but to be effective help had to be prompt. 
Arrangements were therefore made by the High Command 
for this purpose, though in keeping with the role Belgium 
had adopted. The Minister of National Defence, General 
Denis, gave Parliament a formal assurance. “ The respon- 
sible Belgian authorities,” he said, on February 7th, 1940, 
“ will neglect no steps to enable the Powers that have 
guaranteed Belgium to fulfil their obligations towards us.” 
From 1914 to 1936 — twenty-two years — the Belgian General 
Staff maintained close contact with the French General Staff. 

The Belgian Command had received from the Commander- 
in-Chief of the Franco-British Army an assurance that he 
had at his disposal everything that was necessary to ensure 
that the help to Belgium be rendered without delay. Events 
proved that he was right. On May 10th, the French and 
British forces took up their positions within the time-limit 
laid down. 

Belgium was discreetly advised to seek Franco-British aid 
without awaiting an act of aggression. She did not accept 


BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 23 

this advice, which she regarded as incompatible with the 
attitude she intended loyally to maintain. Moreover, it had 
grave disadvantages. On several occasions, she was under 
the impression that preventive intervention by France and 
Great Britain was just what the Germans were secretly 
hoping for. The German Army was concentrated on the 
Belgian frontier, ready to launch an attack. If the French 
and British Armies had entered Belgian territory, the German 
attack would have followed immediately and the advantage 
gained by them would have been slight. The Government 
knew that these armies could not go beyond the K.W. 
line. To appeal for preventive aid would have entailed the 
occupation of half the country by the German invaders. 
The only result would have been to set in motion earlier the 
events that occurred in May. The course of these events 
would not have been changed, because it was due to factors 
outside Belgium’s control. The chief cause was the great 
superiority which the Powers who were the guardians of 
peace had allowed the aggressive Powers to acquire. There 
was in particular the weakening of France, which, on the 
eve of the German aggression, manifested itself by more and 
more disquieting signs : a ministerial crisis, a crisis of the 
High Command, and the weakening of the will to conquer. 

The Government could not have prevented the disasters 
that occurred in May, but an appeal for preventive aid would 
have given them an entirely different meaning and the people 
would have endured them with far less fortitude. 

The case of Belgium would have become far less clear, 
and from then on would have been open to discussion. 
Germany, relying on the Declaration of 1937, would have 
represented Franco-British intervention as justifying her 
own aggression. She would have accused Belgium of failing 
to keep her promises and of being responsible for her own 
troubles. Towards neutral countries and towards herself 
Belgium would have ceased to be what she was in 1914, a 
loyal nation, a nation that had been attacked, though no 
shadow of blame attached to her. 

The military defeat, the piercing of the French lines on the 
3 


24 BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 


BELGIUM AND THE EUROPEAN CONFLICT 25 


Meuse, the subsequent enemy occupation, would not have 
been avoided . But Belgium would not have had the support, 
in these terrible trials, of the moral force generated by her 
attitude. 

One of the chief objectives in 1936, as has been seen, was 
to assemble all the national forces before the danger, and so 
to act that the nation would arise as one man against 
aggression, just as it did in 1914, though this time with an 
infinitely more powerful and better-trained army. 

This result was fully achieved. At the beginning of the 
conflict a Coalition Government was set up in which the 
three political parties were represented. The whole world 
heard the proud words in which the King himself gave the 
watchword : “ If we were attacked,” he said on October 
27th, “ — and may God preserve us from that fate — in spite 
of the solemn and categorical undertakings given to us in 
1937 and renewed just before the war, we should fight with- 
out hesitation, but with ten times the means. And this time 
again the whole country would be behind the Army ” 
(Appendix 10). 

Never did foreign policy meet with such general approval 
in Belgium. It is only necessary to read the debates in 
the Senate on April 16th and 17th, three weeks before 
the aggression. There had been growing approval from the 
beginning of the conflict; even those who were formerly 
critical fully approved. “ I am the more qualified to say 
what I think of this policy,” said a Walloon Socialist senator, 
“ in that I was opposed to it at the beginning. Confusing 
independence with neutrality, I told myself that neutrality 
was something shady and cowardly. But after these dread- 
ful events which have made the human conscience bleed, I 
have realized that I was mistaken, and for the past eight 
months I have felt sure our young King was right.” (Hear, 
hear.) “ And, old republican as I am, I thank him.” 

The debate closed with a vote that was almost unanimous 
— 131 for and only 3 Communists against. There were two 
abstentions. 

The Government would not have been able to carry the 


nation with it on any other policy, even if it had wanted to 
do so; had it tried, the attempt would have led to serious 
internal dissension and confusion, the consequences of which 
might have been fatal. National unity would have been 
impaired, and by that very fact the country’s power of 
resistance would have been weakened. 

On the contrary, at the moment of supreme trial, the 
whole country, except for a few scattered elements of little 
importance, was resolved and united as it had never been 
at any previous period of its history. The Rexist Party, 
which had Fascist leanings, and had had a passing success 
five years before, at the height of the economic depression, 
was completely broken up. Most of its representatives had 
openly supported the national union ; this was also true of 
the Flemish nationalists, who represented the extremist 
element in Flemish public opinion. The fifth column was 
represented only by scattered individuals; it was not able 
to demonstrate openly. 

After the German aggression, foreign observers sometimes 
asked the Belgians what good their policy of independence 
and their efforts to prevent v/ar in their territory had done 
them. It is true that this policy prevented neither German 
aggression nor invasion. It could perhaps reduce the risk 
slightly, though it could not remove it. Only the foresight 
and armed force of the Great Powers could have done that. 
But Belgium’s attitude and her consistency in maintaining it 
were nevertheless of inestimable value to her. They cemented 
national unity and strengthened the common will to resist at 
a time when the country was about to face one of the most 
terrible ordeals of its history : an aggression of unparalleled 
violence, the brutal onslaught of an unexpected and un- 
merited disaster, the moral torture and deprivation entailed 
by a new occupation, the spectre of famine. These are the 
fundamental safeguards which it was essential Belgium 
should have when her very existence was threatened by the 
storm. 


THE GERMAN AGGRESSION 


27 


III 

THE GERMAN AGGRESSION 

The final warning came at the beginning of May. On 
Saturday the 4th, the Netherlands Government had news 
that the Netherlands would be attacked in the next few 
days. 1 Security measures were immediately reinforced, 
Army leave was stopped and men on leave were recalled. 
There was less tension in Belgium; public opinion was used 
to these continuous alarms; it was aware that every pre- 
caution had been taken, and it remained calm; security 
measures were ready; the authorities were able to confine 
themselves to recommending special vigilance. 

There was no fresh information during the days of the 
8th-9th. In private conversations, Axis diplomats were 
reassuring. 

On the evening of the 9th, secret information came through 
that the aggression would occur at dawn on the following 
day. In previous months, the Belgian authorities had 
received similar information. At about ten o’clock, guards 
at different points on the frontier began to report that they 
could hear confused noises in German territory: footsteps, 
voices, motors, and moving traffic. At about eleven o’clock, 
the Luxemburg authorities were informed that National 
Socialists in the Grand Duchy had been warned. 

These signs were a disquieting confirmation of the earlier 
information. The authorities were at once notified. At 
midnight the Prime Minister, the Minister of National 
Defence, the Minister of Justice, the Principal Private 
Secretary, and the Secretary of the King, the Military 
Attorney-General, met in the office of the Minister for 
Foreign Affairs, who had with him his chief collaborators. 
They discussed the situation quietly and awaited information. 
It was not the first time since the beginning of the conflict 

1 Van Kleffens, The Rape of the Netherlands , p. 102. 

26 


that similar circumstances had brought them together in 
this room in the middle of the night. Outside, the sleeping 
town lay silent. At about one o’clock, the Belgian Minister 
at Luxemburg telephoned that clashes had occurred between 
the police and National Socialist formations who were trying 
to seize by force the barriers put up on the main roads 
leading to the German frontier. 

From two o’clock in the morning, the Dutch wireless 
stations announced, time after time, that aeroplanes going 
from east to west were flying over various localities in the 
Netherlands. It was impossible to ascertain the importance 
and significance of this information, but all the signs pointed 
in the same direction. The Government decided there and 
then to introduce a state of siege and to arrest suspected 
persons in the eastern provinces so as to prevent internal 
action against our lines of defence. 

As the night wore on, there was a fairly long lull. When 
dawn was about to break, the peace of the capital had not 
been disturbed. 

From 4.30 information was received which left no shadow 
of doubt : the hour had struck. Aircraft were first reported 
in the east. At five o’clock came news of the bombing of 
two Netherlands aerodromes, the violation of the Belgian 
frontier, the landing of German soldiers at the Eben-Emael 
Fort, the bombing of the Jemelle station. 

While the Minister of National Defence was checking this 
information, Brussels was suddenly awakened to a radiant 
dawn at 5.17 a.m. by the mournful sound of the sirens, and 
soon the windows at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where 
the chief members of the Government were still assembled, 
were shaken by the firing of anti-aircraft artillery and 
German bombs dropped on the Evere aerodrome and on 
several parts of the town. 

It was at once decided to appeal to Belgium’s guarantors, 
and this was done. 

At 8.30 the German Ambassador came to the Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs. When he entered the Minister’s room, he 
began to take a paper from his pocket. M. Spaak stopped 


28 


THE GERMAN AGGRESSION 


THE GERMAN AGGRESSION 


29 


him : “ I beg your pardon, Mr. Ambassador. I will speak 
first.” And in an indignant voice, he read the Belgian 
Government’s protest: “Mr. Ambassador, the German 
Army has just attacked our country. This is the second 
time in twenty-five years that Germany has committed a 
criminal aggression against a neutral and loyal Belgium. 
What has just happened is perhaps even more odious than 
the aggression of 1914. No ultimatum, no note, no protest 
of any kind has ever been placed before the Belgian Govern- 
ment. It is through the attack itself that Belgium has learnt 
that Germany has violated the undertakings given by her 
on October 13th, 1937, and renewed spontaneously at the 
beginning of the war. The act of aggression committed by 
Germany, for which there is no justification whatever, will 
deeply shock the conscience of the world. The German 
Reich will be held responsible by history. Belgium is 
resolved to defend herself. Her cause, which is the cause 
of Right, cannot be vanquished.” 

The Ambassador was then able to read the note he had 
brought: “I am instructed by the Government of the 
Reich,” he said, “ to make the following declaration : In 
order to forestall the invasion of Belgium, Holland, and 
Luxemburg, for which Great Britain and France have been 
making preparations clearly aimed at Germany, the Govern- 
ment of the Reich is compelled to ensure the neutrality of 
the three countries mentioned by means of arms. For this 
purpose, the Government of the Reich will bring up an armed 
force of the greatest size, so that resistance of any kind 
will be useless. The Government of the Reich guarantees 
Belgium’s European and colonial territory, as well as her 
dynasty, on condition that no resistance is offered. Should 
there be any resistance, Belgium will risk the destruction of 
her country and the loss of her independence. It is there- 
fore in the interests of Belgium that the population be called 
upon to cease all resistance and that the authorities be given 
the necessary instructions to make contact with the German 
Military Command.” 

In the middle of this communication, M. Spaak, who had 


by his side the Secretary-General of the Department, 
interrupted the Ambassador: “Hand me the document,” 
he said. “ I should like to spare you so painful a task.” 
After studying the note, M. Spaak confined himself to 
pointing out that he had already replied by the protest he 
had just made. 

During the morning, a fuller note of protest was addressed 
to the representatives of all the foreign Governments 
(Appendix 17). Most of them, though neutrals, at once 
informed Belgium of their sympathy. 

In the note which the German Government instructed 
the German Ambassador to hand in, no definite complaint 
was made to justify the aggression against Belgium. At the 
very moment when her aeroplanes were bombing peaceful 
sleeping citizens, Germany once again represented herself 
as the protector of their neutrality. Already, however, the 
German News Service (D.N.B.) had forwarded a com- 
munication throwing responsibility for the invasion on the 
victim. Later on, the Reich published a White Book con- 
taining charges of alleged collusion between Belgium, Great 
Britain, and France. Of the twenty documents reproduced, 
there are only two which come from a Belgian military 
authority. They relate to operations to be carried out on 
Belgian or Dutch territories; but all of them are purely 
defensive, and they are clearly intended to deal with German 
aggression against Belgium and Holland. 

On the basis of the declarations of the Minister of National 
Defence in the Chamber on February 7th, 1940, the German 
Government accused the Belgian Government of organizing 
her defences exclusively against the Reich. The open 
threats against Belgium from the end of October 1939 amply 
justified the decision of the High Command to draw up 
the Army along the frontier, where preparations for an 
attack were being made. The plan of these preparations 
had fallen into the hands of the Belgian authorities at the 
beginning of January, This document, three-parts burnt, 
is attached (Appendix 13). It is undoubtedly of an aggres- 
sive nature. The offensive manoeuvres which were to be 


30 


THE GERMAN AGGRESSION 


THE GERMAN AGGRESSION 


31 


carried out by the German western army were not intended 
to counter an invasion of Belgium by French and British 
forces ; they were designed, on the contrary, to crush the 
Belgian Army before Allied help could arrive. 

The document, about which the German Government has 
never been able to furnish any explanation, definitively settles 
the question of responsibility. 

In any case, there could be no justification, in Belgium’s 
view, for the surprise attack made on the country at dawn, 
when official relations between the two countries were quite 
normal. Belgium knew she was innocent. When the fight 
began, the King was able to remind his people of the Belgium 
of 1914, and to show that now as then she was resolute and 
blameless. 

“ For the second time in a quarter of a century,” he said, 
“ Belgium — a neutral and loyal country — has been attacked 
by the German Empire in spite of the most solemn under- 
takings contracted before the whole world. The Belgian 
people, who are fundamentally peaceful, have done every- 
thing in their power to prevent this, but between sacrifice 
and dishonour the Belgian of 1940 hesitates no more than 
did the Belgian of 1914. . . . France and Great Britain have 
promised to help us. Their advance troops are already 
pushing forward to join up with ours. The fight will be 
hard. Great sacrifices and deprivation will be asked of you, 
but there can be no doubt about the final victory. I intend 
to remain faithful to my constitutional oath to maintain the 
independence and integrity of the territory. Like my father 
in 1914, 1 have put myself at the head of our Army with the 
same faith, with the same clear conscience. The cause of 
Belgium is pure. With the help of God it will triumph ” 
(Appendix 18). 

The Council of Ministers met at the beginning of the 
morning and were informed of the events of the night before 
and of the appeal addressed immediately to the guarantor 
Powers. Parliament met in the afternoon. It approved 
unanimously the steps taken by the Government to meet 
the aggression. 


No doubt the nation had hoped to the end that Belgium 
would be spared war, but during those long months on the 
brink of danger, it had become familiar with the idea that 
the fateful hour might strike at any time. It remained calm 
and well-disciplined. Everyone did his duty. 

The German air-raid shortly after dawn caused many 
deaths. A Government declaration emphasized that 
Brussels was an open town and that there were no troops 
there. The Belgian Ambassador in London was instructed 
at the same time to ask urgently for immediate aid from the 
British Air Force. 

From an early hour, there was violent fighting on the 
frontier. It was learnt that, taking advantage of a surprise 
attack at the end of the night, air-borne detachments played 
an important role. The public became obsessed with the 
idea of parachutists. Nowhere inside the country, however, 
did enemy agents dare — as in the Grand Duchy of Luxem- 
burg and on an even more extensive scale in Norway and 
Holland — to commit acts of sabotage or violence. 

Only one thing mattered: the defence at all costs of 
Belgium’s independence. It seemed incredible that there 
could be any doubt as to the attitude to be adopted. As 
those who some years earlier had defined Belgium’s position 
had hoped, duty was quite clear to all, in the light of the facts. 



IV 


HOW THE BELGIAN ARMY DEFENDED 
THE TERRITORY 

Now it was for the Army to make its stand against aggression 
and to fulfd the mission Belgium had undertaken. On 
behalf of neighbouring countries, as well as for her own 
sake, she had undertaken “ to defend with all her forces 
the frontiers of Belgium against any aggression or invasion 
and to prevent Belgian territory from being used for the 
passage of troops or as a base of operations for aggression 
against another State.” 

After mobilization, the Army available for carrying out 
this mission consisted of : 

5 Regular Army Corps and 2 Reserve Army Corps con- 
sisting in all of : 

12 Regular Infantry Divisions. 

2 Divisions of “ Chasseurs Ardennais.” 

6 Reserve Infantry Divisions. 

1 Brigade of Cyclist Frontier Guards. 

1 Cavalry Corps of 2 Cavalry Divisions and 1 Brigade of 
Motorized Cavalry. 

2 Reconnaissance Regiments (Gendarmerie). 

4 Air Force Regiments. 

2 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiments. 

4 Army Artillery Regiments. 

Army Troops (Engineers, Signals, etc.). 

Fortress Troops. 

Services. 

The Belgian plan, in the event of a German aggression , 
provided for: 

(a) A delaying position along the Albert Canal from 
Antwerp to Liege and the Meuse from Liege to Namur, 
which was to be held long enough to allow French and 

32 


33 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

British troops to occupy the line Antwerp-Namur-Givet. 1 
It was anticipated that the forces of the guarantor Powers 
would be in action on the third day of invasion. 

(, b ) Withdrawal to the Antwerp-Namur position. 

(c) The Belgian Army was to hold the sector-exclusive 
Louvain, inclusive Antwerp— as part of the main Allied 
defensive position. 

During the evening of May 9th, the Belgian Military 
Attache in Berlin intimated that the Germans intended to 
attack on the following day. Offensive preparations and 
troop movements on the Belgian frontier confirmed this 
information. 

May 10th . — At ten minutes past twelve (midnight) on 
May 10th, General Headquarters gave the alarm. For the 
third time since mobilization had taken place, the Belgian 
troops took up their war stations (Map 1). 

At four o'clock , without ultimatum or declaration of war, 
a powerful German Air Force bombed and machine-gunned 
the aerodromes, stations, and communication centres. The 
Belgian Air Force, taken by surprise, lost over half its 
machines on the ground. 


First Phase: Defence of the Delaying Position and 
Withdrawal to the Main Position Antwerp-Namur 

May 1 0r/2-l 3 rA (Maps 1, 2, and 3).— An unusually daring 
coup de main was carried out on the front Eben-Emael- 
Vroenhoven-Veldwezelt-Briedgen (Map 2), where one 
salient of our defensive position skirting the frontier of 
Holland could not be covered by outposts. Troops 
transported by gliders were landed behind the bridges of 
Yroenhoven, Veldwezelt, and Briedgen, whilst German 

1 It should be noted that, in accordance with the accepted principle of 
the Belgian Army, there was only one order— to resist to the end. . 

Chapter V, “ The Defensive and Retreat,” Article 168 of the Belgian 
Field Service Regulations prescribes that: “ In the event of an attack, it 
shall be compulsory to resist to the end. The Commander-in-Chiei alone 
shall reach a decision as to the expediency of ceasing resistance on any position 
and as to the moment at which it should cease.” 


34 THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

aircraft incessantly bombarded the whole of the sector. 
The glider troops, reinforced by parachutists, surprised the 
detachments guarding the bridges and captured them from 
the rear. The artillery of the fort of Eben-Emael, covering 
these bridges, had already been put out of action by a new 
method of warfare. A few gliders, taking advantage of the 
dark, landed on the roof of the fort. Their crews succeeded, 
by means of explosives, in putting out of action or damaging 
the defensive armament of the fort. 

Transport aircraft showered parachutists on Eben-Emael. 
These parachutists established themselves on the fort, 
entered through the breaches, and began to destroy the 
galleries, while the aerial bombardment was continued, 
with redoubled intensity, on neighbouring units of the fort, 
and especially on the artillery, so as to prevent them from 
giving any help. 

The Belgian Army could not by itself fulfil its mission 
of throwing back the aggressor. In their Declaration on 
April 24th, 1937, Great Britain and France had confirmed 
their promise to assist Belgium, as provided in the Locarno 
agreements. While the fort of Eben-Emael and the neigh- 
bouring units were fully engaged in battle, in very difficult 
circumstances, the Government appealed to the guarantor 
Powers. 

In an Order of the Day, General Gamelin said: “The 
attack we have been expecting since last October began this 
morning.” 

As promised by the Minister of National Defence in 
Parliament on February 7th, the authorities had neglected 
no step to enable the guarantor Powers to fulfil their 
obligations. Our southern frontier was opened to the 
French and British Armies, which were to occupy the 
positions assigned to them, according to a carefully thought- 
out plan. 

The heads of motorized columns of the Seventh French 
Army (General Giraud) began an advance into Holland in 
the direction of Breda and Tilburg to defend the mouths of 
the Scheldt and Zeeland. 



N S 2.MAY 10,1940 

EBEN-EMAEL-VROENHOVEN-VELDWEZELT- BRIEGDEN 


35 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

In the evening mobile troops of the B.E.F. (General Gort) 
took up a position on the Dyle between Wavre and Louvain, 
while the Prioux Cavalry Corps, preceding the First French 
Army (General Blanchard) reached the Wavre-Namur line. 
A group of light divisions belonging to the Second French 
Army (General Huntzinger) advanced into Belgian Luxem- 
burg in the direction of Marche, Bastogne, and Arlon. 
It encountered strong enemy resistance, and was brought 
back in the evening to the Etalle-Neufchateau line. 

The light troops of the Ninth French Army (General 
Corap) reached the Ourthe cutting (see Map 1). 

Early on the morning of May 10th, the King had gone 
to his General Headquarters at Breendonck, near Antwerp. 

May Uth.— By taking the bridges at Vroenhoven, Veld- 
wezelt, and Briedgen, and putting the fort of Eben-Emael 
out of action, the enemy obtained a footing on the left bank 
of the Albert Canal on the front held by the 7th Infantry 
Division. 

The regiments in this division (2nd Grenadier Regiment 
at Canne, 1 8th of the Line at Vroenhoven, 2nd Carabineers at 
Veldwezelt-Briedgen) held on to their positions desperately. 
In spite of an aerial bombardment of unparalleled violence, 
in spite of disorganization in the rear and of the disorganiza- 
tion caused by enemy parachutists, there were many counter- 
attacks for the purpose of retaking the bridges. By dint 
of heroic efforts, the bridge at Briedgen was retaken and 
destroyed. But the enemy had had time to establish firmly 
anchored bridgeheads at Vroenhoven and Veldwezelt. His 
supporting fire and still more his fighter aircraft tied down 
the Belgian battalions and inflicted heavy losses on them. 
The intervention of our reserves and motorized troops 
recalled from the Ardennes did not succeed in restoring 
the situation. A Belgian squadron, offering itself up as a 
sacrifice, flew over and bombed the bridge o± Vroenhoven: 
eleven machines out of twelve were brought down. 

There was no response, up to midday, to the requests 
addressed to the British and French Commands asking for 
bomber aircraft. It was not until the morning of May 12th 


36 THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

that the R.A.F. set out on its expedition to bomb the 
Maastricht bridges. 

From the very beginning, the German Air Force had 
an overwhelming superiority. There was never to be an 
opportunity of wresting from it, even locally, the mastery 
of the air. Its action was favoured by specially good 
weather conditions throughout the eighteen days of the 
campaign. For eighteen days the Belgian Army had the 
depressing feeling that it was manoeuvring and fighting 
under a sky that belonged exclusively to the enemy. 

After resisting desperately for thirty-six hours, the 7th 
Infantry Division withdrew. The fort of Eben-Emael fell. 
The enemy armoured divisions hurled through the gap, 
advanced beyond Tongres, threatening to envelop the whole 
of the Albert Canal position and the fortified town of Liege. 
The withdrawal of the 7th Infantry Division was followed 
by that of the 4th Infantry Division on its left. 

May 12 th. — On the evening of May 11th, the High Com- 
mand decided to withdraw our troops behind the Antwerp- 
Namur line. 

Beginning on the night of May 1 1th— 12th, our forces 
deployed on the Albert Canal and the Meuse gradually 
withdrew, covered by a network of demolitions and by 
rearguards posted astride Tongres, then on the line of the 
Gette. 

During the day of May 1 2th, there was a conference between 
King Leopold, General Van Overstraeten, M. Daladier, 
General Georges, General Billotte, General Champon, and 
General Pownall, Chief of the British General Staff, at the 
Chateau of Casteau, near Mons. The King and General 
Pownall agreed that General Billotte, commanding the 
French Northern Army Group, should be delegated by 
General Georges 1 “ to ensure that the operations of the 
Allied Armies in Belgium and Holland were co-ordinated.” 

The Belgian Army reorganized in order to range itself 
in good order on the prepared position from Antwerp to 

1 General Georges commanded the North-Eastern Army Group, that is 
all the French and British Forces opposite the German frontier. 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 37 

Louvain. The Third Army Corps had evacuated the fortified 
town of Liege in order to escape being encircled. But the 
forts, with the exception of Eben-Emael, held on and acted 
as strong-points, hindering the invader’s communications. 

Colonel Modart, one of the defenders of Loncin in 1914, 
who was now commanding the Liege Fortress Regiment, 
followed General Leman’s example, and shut himself up in 
the Flemalle fort to direct and to put heart into the defence. 

The British Army had three divisions in position on the 
Louvain-Wavre front. Six other divisions were echeloned 
in depth between the Dyle and the Scheldt. 

The First French Army, covered in the direction of Tirle- 
mont-Huy by a cavalry corps, reached its dispositions on 
the Wavre-Gembloux-Namur front. 

The Namur position, defended by the Seventh Belgian 
Army Corps (8th Infantry Division, 2nd Division of “ Chas- 
seurs Ardennais,” 12th French Infantry Division), absorbed 
also the troops of the Keyaerts group (1st Division of 
“ Chasseurs Ardennais ”), who fought a delaying action 
throughout the whole depth of the Ardennes and did 
considerable demolition work. 

In the south, the Ninth French Army established itself 
on the Meuse from Namur to Mezieres. In Holland, the 
situation was not clear. Air-borne troops which landed at 
The Hague and at Rotterdam paralysed the defence, 
preventing the Allies from making contact with the main 
Netherlands forces. The Seventh French Army was faced 
by superior forces which emerged from the Peel marshes. 

In short, in spite of the fall of Eben-Emael and the loss 
of two bridges, the Belgian Army carried out the only 
independent mission for which it was responsible— it held 
on to the Liege and Albert Canal position for long enough 
to enable the bulk of the Allied forces to occupy the Antwerp- 
Namur-Givet line. 

In accordance with the decisions reached at Casteau, it 
was henceforward to take part in the general plan of the 
Allied forces. 

May 13 th (Map 3).— While the greater part of the Belgian 


38 THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

Army, already in position, feverishly organized the defence 
of the Antwerp-Louvain position, detachments of our 
cavalry corps posted as rearguards on the Gette were 
responsible for covering the withdrawal of our rearmost 
divisions. Violent fighting took place at Haelen and 
Tirlemont, where the 2nd Regiment of Guides and the 1st 
and 2nd Carabineer Cyclists particularly distinguished 
themselves. 

The King issued the following proclamation to the troops : 
“ Soldiers, 

“ The Belgian Army, brutally assailed by an un- 
paralleled surprise attack, grappling with forces that are 
better equipped and have the advantage of a formidable 
air force, has for three days carried out difficult operations, 
the success of which is of the utmost importance to the general 
conduct of the battle and to the result of the war, 

“ These operations require from all of us — officers and 
men — exceptional efforts, sustained day and night, despite 
a moral tension tested to its limits by the sight of the 
devastation wrought by a pitiless invader. 

“ However severe the trial may be, you will come through 
it gallantly. 

Our position improves with every hour * our ranks are 
closing up. In the critical days that are ahead of us, you 
will summon up all your energies, you will make every 
sacrifice, to stem the invasion. 

“ Just as they did in 1914 on the Yser, so now the French 
and British troops are counting on you: the safety and 
honour of the country are in your hands. 

“ Leopold.” 

Alarming news came from the French front. At seven 
o’clock the Germans had attacked the Ninth French Army 
at Houx — where only the advanced troops were in position 
— and infiltrated into the valley of the Meuse from Yvoir 
to Givet. An enemy attack supported by artillery and a 
very powerful air force on the Second Army front seized 



\ H o i l' AND 


39 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

Sedan at 5 p.m. and made a breach in which a formidable 
inass of armoured divisions concentrated. 

Was not the German attack to the north of the Meuse 
simply a diversion to deprive the Allied centre of its reserves ? 

Second Phase: The Break-through at Sedan and the 
German Push to the Channel, involving the 
Abandonment of the Antwerp-Namur Position, 
May 14 th to 20th. (Map No. 4) 

May 14 th, 15th, and \6th .— Confining itself to exerting a 
firm pressure on the Belgian-British front, the enemy 
directed its main effort against the French Armies. 

Between the Sambre and the Meuse, the French Ninth 
Army broke up in disorder. General Giraud, who had just 
been given the Command, was captured on the 16th at 
La Capelle. 

The irresistible drive of the Panzer Divisions thrown into 
the Sedan breach seriously threatened to envelop the whole 
of the Allied troops engaged in Belgium. This led the 
Commander-In-Chief of the Allied Armies on the evening 
of the 15th to a decision which had very important results 
—the abandonment of the Antwerp-Namur position and 
a withdrawal behind the Escaut ; that is to say, the abandon- 
ment, without any real resistance, of a powerfully organized 
position and the taking up of an improvised position. 

The fortified position of Namur, isolated by the French 
withdrawal, was abandoned. The forts, as at Liege, acted 
as strong-points and held up the enemy’s advance. The 
withdrawal of the Seventh Belgian Army Corps, which was 
endangered by the speed with which the French withdrew, 
was only possible thanks to the skilful dispositions of its 
Commander, General Deffontaine. 

The Seventh French Army, unable by its offensive in 
Zeeland to prevent the capitulation of the Netherlands Army, 
fell back in disorder on Antwerp. Most of it was diverted 
as reinforcements in the direction of the First Army. 

The magnificent resistance put up by the Liege forts was 

4 


40 THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

recognized by this message from the King on the 16th: 

“ Colonel Modart, commanding the Liege Fortress 
Regiment. Officers, non-commissioned officers and men 
ol the Liege fortifications, resist to the last for your country. 

“ I am proud of you. 

“ Leopold.” 

The resistance put up by the Liege and Namur forts came 
up to the expectations of the King and the Army. The fort 
of Chaudfontaine did not fall until the 17th, Pontisse and 
Barchon until the 18th, Evegnee until the 19th, Neufchateau 
until the 21st, Pepinster (Commandant A. Devos) was still 
holding out on the 28th. 

At Namur, the fort of Marchovelette fell on the 18th, 
Suarlee on the 19th, St. Heribert and Malonne on the 21st, 
Dave, Maizeret, and Andoy on the 23rd. 

May Mth to 20 th (Map 4). — During the night of the 
16th— 17th, the French and British withdrew behind the 
Willebroeck Canal. 

In the general retreat, the Belgian Army withdrew, step 
by step, to Ghent and Termonde in three phases : 

(a) Behind the Willebroeck Canal. 

(b) Behind the Dendre. 

(c) Behind the Scheldt. 

Violent fighting took place on the Nethe, the Rupel, the 
Willebroeck Canal, the Scheldt, Flanders Head, and on the 
Dendre. During the fighting, the Belgian artillery gave 
many proofs of its worth. 

For three days from May 18th to 20th — our divisions, 
disposed in good order on the Escaut and the Ghent 
bridgehead, held out against every attack, while the 
manoeuvre which was to end in the breaking up of the 
Allied armies into two groups was developing on the Oise. 

The British communique of May 21st paid tribute to the 
bearing of the Belgian Army in these words : 

“ The Belgian Army has contributed largely towards the 
success of the defensive battle now being fought.” 

On the evening of the 18th, the Panzer Divisions 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 41 

approached Peronne. There was nothing to stop their 
rapid advance. The King had warned his Ministers that 
a final breach of the Allied front was not impossible, and 
that this would lead to the isolation of the Belgian Army 
and part of the French and British Armies, and might have 
serious consequences, that is to say, capitulation. 

On the 19th, M. Gutt, Minister of Finance, who was on 
a mission to Paris, drew the attention of M. Reynaud, 
President of the Council, to the growing danger to the 
Belgian Army, which was exposed to envelopment with all 
its consequences. He pressed for urgent decisions by the 
High Command in order to avert the impending disaster. 

On May 20th, hearing of the fall of Cambrai and of the 
German threat to Abbeville, and aware of the state of 
exhaustion of the French northern forces, the King informed 
London of his anxiety. 

Third Phase: Attempt to counter-attack to reunite 
the Allied Front. Mission of the Belgian Army : 

TO COVER THIS OPERATION BY DEFENDING THE LYS ON 

a Front extended from 50 to 90 km. ( May 20 th 
to 24 th) 

May 21 st . — On May 21st, the Germans entered Amiens 
and Montreuil: a strategic situation of the utmost gravity 
was thus created. It was in these dramatic circumstances that 
General Weygand, recalled from Syria, succeeded General 
Gamelin as Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies. 

Exposed to the full onslaught of the enemy, the British 
left the Escaut and fell back to the Lys, and this compelled 
us to take a new line on the Lys, while at the same time we 
had to protect ourselves from Walcheren Island, which had 
fallen on the 19th. 

On the same day, the Allied Commanders-in-Chief held 
a conference at Ypres. General Weygand’s plan for a 
double counter-attack to restore the Allied front on the 
Arras-Albert line was discussed. It was agreed that the 
Belgian Army should extend its front in order to release 


42 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

some of the British troops to take part in these operations. 
The Belgian Army was also to cover these operations by 
holding the line of the Lys, extending in the north to the 

mouth of the Escaut, and eventually to withdraw to the 
Yser. 

_ May 22nd . — The French and British attempts to re-estab- 
lish contact with their armies on the Somme drew the bulk 
of their forces in the direction of Arras. Twice the Belgian 
front was weakened by an extension to the south, and on 
May 22nd it held a front over 90 km. long. 

The Franco-British attack under command of General 
Blanchard made some progress. The French light 
mechanized units reached the Sensee, in the direction of 
Cambrai, but their thrust was broken by the German 
Panzer Divisions. 

At the same time, south of the Somme, General Georges 
was preparing to attack north. 

From north to south, the dispositions of the Belgian 
Forces were, first the Cavalry Corps which held the advanced 
position at Terneuzen, then from north to south ranged side 
by side the Fifth, Second, Sixth, Seventh, and Fourth Army 
Corps. One reserve division guarded the coast. 

In reserve our First Corps had only two incomplete 
divisions which had been sorely tried during the preceding 
encounters. The 60th French Division with two regiments 
held the Leopold Canal in the district north of Bruges 
behind our Cavalry Corps. 

Acting on our own authority, we sent the Sixteenth French 
Corps to hold the canal from Gravelines to St. Omer, in 
order to secure the Lys and ensure freedom of action for 
the Allied withdrawal in the south. 

In these circumstances, the Belgian Army once again 
accepted battle. Whilst the armoured divisions were 
reported to be at Boulogne and then at St. Omer and the 
French and British were trying to re-establish the connection 
between Cambrai and Peronne, our troops held out 
courageously, so as to give the necessary time and space for 
this decisive operation. 





THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 43 

It was the Belgian Army, however, which was to bear the 
chief weight of the German forces in Belgium. 

The picture would be incomplete if we did not mention 
the complications due to a number of motor convoys and 
movements of all kinds crowded along the French frontier, 
which was more often closed than open; the congestion 
caused by hundreds of thousands of refugees moving hither 
and thither in search of a safe area, and by bombardments 
which laid waste the whole of the coastal area. 

May 23rd .— General Blanchard’s offensive had been 
halted; it could not be resumed. In the south, General 
Georges’ offensive had been stopped on the Somme ; every- 
where the Germans maintained their positions on the north 
bank of the river. It became obvious that the counter- 
attack planned by General Weygand could not be carried 
out. Similarly, a second counter-attack towards Abbeville 
on the same day failed. 

Enemy pressure compelled the Belgians to abandon 
Terneuzen and Ghent. The British attempt to break through 
at Arras had failed. The French units were not in a con- 
dition to attack. 

On the other hand, motorized detachments from Boulogne 
and St. Pol threatened the rear of the Allies. The encircling 
movement was rapidly closing in. In the air, the situation 
was becoming increasingly difficult. Most of the airfields 
in the north-east of France were occupied by the enemy. 
There was no direct contact, and the only means of com- 
munication with the R.A.F. and the French Air Force was 
by wireless. 

The Belgian Army was no longer allowed to use the bases 
at Gravelines, Dunkirk, and Bourbourg which had been 
placed at its disposal, and had only the ports of Oslend and 
Nieuport left. It was compelled to move its reserves of food , 
ammunition, and oil, as well as its hospital trains, along one 
of the few railway lines still usable. 

May 24th — A heavy German attack forced a crossing 
over the Lys on both sides of Courtrai on the front held by 
the 1st and 3rd Divisions. The great battle had begun. 


44 the ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

Our 10th and 9th Divisions intervened and filled the gap, 
in spite of the enemy’s violent air attacks. Two hundred 
prisoners were captured in a counter-attack on the front 
of the Second Army Corps. Our Intelligence established 
the tact that the attacking force consisted of four regular 
divisions. The Belgian artillery displayed the greatest 
activity m harassing the enemy day and night at all ranges. 
To break down this stubborn resistance, the German General 
Staff decided to resort to a mass air attack. Formations of 
over fifty bombers, protected over the coast by fighters 
continuously bombed and machine-gunned our lines, our 
batteries, our headquarters, and our transports, preparing 
the way for a deadly infantry attack employing the tactics 
of infiltration. Unfortunately, in spite of our earnest 
entreaties, our troops never had the benefit of any appre- 
ciable help from the Allied air forces. 

On May 24th, the enemy brought into line a fresh division 
from Menin to Ypres which threatened to cut us off from 
the British. Our 2nd Cavalry Division and our 6th Infantry 
Division were brought round from our left to our right 
and frustrated this attempt. In conjunction with the 10th 
Infantry Division, they kept the assailant at bay on the 
Yprcs-Roulers line. 

Twice during the 24th, M. Gutt, Minister of Finance, who 
had moved from Paris to London, saw Lord Halifax 
Minister for Foreign Affairs, and considered with him what 
mvasures could be taken to deal with the critical situation 
in which the Belgian Army was now placed. 

Fourth Phase: Failure of the Counter-offensive and 
Allied Retreat to Dunkirk. Resistance of the 
Belgian Army on the Lys until its means were 
exhausted, May 25 th to 21th. (Map No. 5) 

May 25th. The counter-offensive designed to break the 
envelopment having failed, the British troops, set free by 
the extension of the Belgian front which was agreed upon 
at the conference in Ypres on the 21st, withdrew to Dunkirk. 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 45 

The vice in which the British, French, and Belgian forces 
were held continued to close in. From this moment, the 
fate of the Belgian Army was in no doubt. All hope of 
saving it disappeared. On the preceding days, the Germans 
had scattered through the Belgian lines pamphlets inviting 
the soldiers to lay down their arms. A rough map gave 
a striking illustration of their desperate situation. “In 
any case,” said the wording, “ the war is over for you. 
Your leaders are about to escape by air. Throw down 
your arms ! ” (Appendix 19.) 

The only object of continuing the fight was to try to save 
part of the Allied troops by embarking them at Dunkirk. 
At dawn on May 25th, the King informed first his Ministers 
and then his Army of his unshakable determination to resist 
to the limit of his forces and to share in the fate of his 
soldiers. His Order of the Day to the troops was as follows : 

“ Soldiers, 

“ The great battle which we have been expecting has 
begun. It will be fierce. We will fight on with all our 
strength and with supreme energy. 

“ It is being fought on the ground where in 1914 we 
victoriously held the invader. 

“ Soldiers, 

“ Belgium expects you to do honour to her Flag. 

“ Officers, Soldiers, 

“ Whatever may happen, I shall share your fate. 

“ I call on you all for firmness, discipline, and confidence. 

“ Our cause is just and pure. 

“ Providence will help us. 

“ Long Live Belgium! 

“ Leopold.” 

“ In the Field, May 25 th, 1940.” 

He sent a straightforward message to London describing 
the imminent danger and his own intentions. The death 
of General Billotte, representative of the Commander-in- 
Chief in the north, and the actual breakdown of communica- 


46 THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

tions with France, prevented him from sending a similar 
notification to Paris. But in Paris, as in London, the 
Ministers described the situation which was causing them the 
gravest anxiety. 

When General Sir John Dill visited G.H.Q. on May 25th, 
his attention was drawn to the possibility of a break-through 
west of Menin, towards Ypres and Dunkirk, and to its 
dangers. Furthermore, at about six in the evening Colonel 
Davy, Head of the British Military Mission to G.H.Q., was 
informed that the Belgian Army would henceforward be 
quite unable to extend its front any farther. 

May 26th . — During the night of the 25th-26th and the 
day of the 26th, 2,000 wagons were brought up and placed 
end to end to form an anti-tank barrier on the railway line 
from Roulers to Ypres. 

The front was giving way at Iseghem, Nevele, and Ron- 
sele; the First Division of “ Chasseurs Ardennais ” restored 
the position by bitter fighting at Nevele and Vynckt, but 
suddenly the battle extended to the north of Eecloo. ’ The 
Germans forced a crossing over the canal at Balgerhoeck. 
For a moment contact with the British to the west of Menin 
was lost. The last reserves were assembled, the defence of 
the coast was taken over by Lines of Communication troops, 
the defence of the Yser towards the south-west, carried out 
up to this time by the 15th Division, was now undertaken 
by units that were exhausted. Auxiliary troops formed a 
bariier in the rear with 75-mm. guns taken from training 
centres. 

On May 26th at midday, the Belgian Command handed 
the Head of the French Mission a note on the situation of 
the Belgian Army which said : 

“ The Belgian Command asks you to inform the Com- 
mander-in-Chiefof the Allied Armies that the Belgian Army 
is in a serious situation and that the Commander-in-Chief 
intends to carry on the fight as long as his resources 
permit. The enemy is at present attacking from Eecloo to 
Menin; the Army has nearly reached the limits of its 
endurance.” 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 47 

No reply to this message was received from the Com- 
mander-in-Chief. 

At six o’clock in the evening General Blanchard arrived 
to present himself to the King as successor to General 
Billotte. He announced that the British were evacuating 
the frontier position on our right and were withdrawing 
farther to the rear on the Lille-Ypres line. All that could 
be spared to fill the gap thus left between them and the 
Belgians was a small light mechanized division with about 
fifteen tanks. Moreover, in the absence of contact with 
General Gort, there was no means of knowing his intentions. 

On the other hand, the Belgian Command handed to the 
Head of the Belgian Mission with British G.H.Q. the follow- 
ing note : 

“ To-day, May 26th, a very violent attack was launched 
against the Belgian Army on the Menin-Nevele front, and 
at the present moment fighting is continuing throughout 
the whole of the Eecloo region. In the absence of Belgian 
reserves, we cannot extend the boundary notified yesterday 
any farther to the right. We are compelled regretfully to 
say that we have no longer any forces available to bar the 
way from Ypres. Furthermore, to retreat to the Yser is 
impossible, since it would, without loss to the enemy, 
destroy our fighting units even more rapidly than if we stand 
and fight. Flooding of the Yser-Yperlee region has not 
yet been begun. The ditches of the drainage-works on the 
eastern bank have been filled. 1 All the preparatory work for 
flooding has been completed. The order to flood the 
eastern bank of the Yser, and the Yperlee, was given at 
nine o’clock on May 26th. It should be noted that flooding 
will be fairly slow, as this is the season of low tides. Until 
further instructions, there will be no flooding to the north 
of the Passchendael Canal.” 

In the evening, the King decided to make arrangements 
for establishing his G.H.Q. at Middelkerke, a seaside resort 

i The order to prepare the flooding of the Yser had been given on May 19th. 
On the 26th, the soaked ground on the east bank was sufficient to stop tanks. 
All the bridges over the Yser were prepared for destruction. 


48 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

a few kilometres from Ostend, and an advanced echelon 
of G.H.Q. established itself there on the 27th. 

May 21th (Map No. 5).— Twenty-four hours earlier, the 
Belgian Command had suggested that the British should 
counter-attack between the Lys and the Escaut on the flank 
and rear of the German attacking force. The British 
Command replied that the expeditionary force was not in a 
fit state to undertake this operation. Despite the fact that 
the Allies were informed that no fresh troops were available 
and that the limits of resistance were rapidly approaching, 
no hope whatever of direct assistance from the French was 
forthcoming. That was the situation at the beginning of 
May 27th. 5 

The last reserves, three weak regiments, were committed. 
Somehow or other we managed on our own to maintain 
contact with the British, but the enemy was determined to 
break down our resistance which was delaying him and 
causing him considerable losses. Our troops held along 
the whole of the front. They fought their ground, yielding 
only step by step under the repeated assaults of an enemy 
supported by an overwhelmingly large air force; they 
inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. The gunners emptied 
their ammunition limbers, firing point-blank and blowing 
up their guns when they were about to fall into the hands 
of the enemy. Despite such heroism, by about eleven 
o’clock large gaps were made on the front north of Mal- 
degem, in the centre near Ursel, and to the right near Thielt 
and Roulers. The enemy advanced by infiltration. In the 
1 hielt region, 6 to 7 km. of the front was left undefended ; 
the enemy had only to pour through to reach Bruges. At 
about 12.30, the King telegraphed the following message 
to General Gort : 

“ The Belgian Army is losing heart. It has been fighting 
without a break for the past four days under a heavy bom- 
bardment which the R.A.F, has been unable to prevent. 
Having heard that the Allied group is surrounded and aware 
of the great superiority of the enemy, the troops have con- 
cluded that the situation is desperate. The time is rapidly 


LILLE 



49 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

approaching when they will be unable to continue the fight. 
The King will be forced to capitulate to avoid a collapse.” 
At about 2.30 p.m. the French liaison authorities were 

told that : 

“ Belgian resistance is at its last extremity; our front is 
about to break like a worn bowstring.” 

The losses were heavy. The wounded were pouring into 
the hospital units which were already overflowing; many 
of the guns lacked ammunition. The Army could no longer 
offer organized resistance. It had its back to the sea. The 
arc of fire narrowed down ; thousands of refugees and the 
local population were wandering in a restricted area entirely 
at the mercy of enemy guns and aircraft. More than 3 
million people were crowded into less than 1,700 square km. 
Many of them were homeless. Food was beginning to run 

short. The Army no longer had access to a railway. The 
roads were congested and traffic had great difficulty in 
moving. 

Our last means of resistance gave way under the crushing 
weight of technical superiority. There was no hope of help 
and no solution other than complete destruction. Shortly 
before 4 p.m., the Belgian Command was forced to realize: 
“ (1) that from the national point of view, the Belgian Army 
had carried out its task ; it had resisted to the limit of its 
capacity ; its units were unable to continue the fight. There 
could be no retreat to the Yser ; it would do more to destroy 
the units than the fighting in progress; it would increase 
the congestion of the Allied forces to the highest pitcn , 
(2) from the international point of view, the despatch of an 
envoy to ask for terms for the cessation of hostilities would 
have the advantage of allowing the Allies the night of the 
27th-28th and part of the morning of the 28th, an interval 
that, if the fighting were continued, could be gained only 
at the cost of the complete destruction of the Army.” There 
was no possibility of embarking; indeed, even if this solution 
had been possible, it would have left uncovered the retreat 
of the French and British forces to Dunkirk. 

At 5 p.m. the King decided that an envoy should be sent 


50 THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 

to the German Command to ask for an armistice between 
the Belgian Army and the German Army. This decision 
was at once communicated to the French and British 
Missions. The Head of the French Mission, while fully 
appreciating the justice of the decision, expressed the view 
that the negotiations should be conducted by the three armies 
in conjunction with one another. A little later a reply was 
given to the effect that the mission would confine itself to 
enquiring into the terms for the armistice. General 
Champon said, incidentally, that he had succeeded in getting 
into touch with General Weygand by wireless, but that he 
had been unable to reach General Blanchard, whose G.H.Q. 
was not where it was expected to be. He added that with 
our approval he would place on the Yser the 60th French 
Division which we had undertaken to send to Dunkirk in 
Belgian lorries so that it would come directly under French 
Command. Furthermore, he no longer knew where General 
Gort was to be found. His G.H.Q. , which was to have 
established itself at Cassel, had had to give up this idea 
because of an attack by German tanks. Telephonic com- 
munication was impossible, because the Lille exchange had 
been destroyed. 

At 5 p.m. Major-General Derousseaux, Deputy-Chief of 
the General Staff, left Belgian G.H.Q. He returned at 
10 p.m. fiom G.H.Q. of the Eighteenth German Army with 
the reply: “ The Fulmer demands that arms be laid down 
unconditionally ” (Bedingungslos). 

At 11 p.m., bowing to the inevitable, the King, in full 
agreement with his Chief of Staff, decided to accept the 
terms and proposed that firing should cease at 4 a.m. 

May 28th . — At 1.30 a.m. the Head of the French Mission, 
who had moved, in the meantime, to La Panne, was informed 
of the capitulation. 

At 4 a.m. firing ceased along the whole of the Belgian 
front, except in the Roulers-Ypres sector, where the Belgian 
units had not been informed of the capitulation and con- 
tinued to defend their positions until about 6 a.m. 

At about 9 a.m. a message from the envoy was received 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 51 

to the effect that the German Command demanded free 
passage for its columns towards the sea. The message was 
at once telephoned to the Head of the French Mission. 
Shortly afterwards, communications between the repre- 
sentative of the Allied Command and the Belgian Command 
were finally severed by the breakdown of the telephone 
system. 

The Protocol signed on May 28th by General von 
Reichenau for the German Army and General Derousseaux 
for the Belgian Army contained the following provisions : 

“ The Belgian Army shall unconditionally lay down its 
arms at once and shall from that time onwards regard itself 
as prisoner of war. An armistice was entered into this 
morning at 5 a.m. 1 at the request of the Belgian Command. 
The German operations against the British and French troops 
will not be suspended. 

“ Belgian territory will at once be occupied, including all 
the ports. No further damage shall be done to the locks or 
coastal fortifications. 

“ Additional Protocol 

“ 1. As a mark of honourable surrender, the Officers of 
the Belgian Army shall retain their weapons. 

“ 2. The Chateau of Laeken shall be placed at the dis- 
posal of His Majesty the King in order that he may reside 
there with his family, his military attendants and his ser- 
vants.” 

This painful conclusion of an eighteen-day campaign was 
not unexpected. The British and French Government 
authorities were duly informed of our growing exhaustion 
and of our determination to defend our positions until all 
our means were expended : this was done. Capitulation 
was not the result of a free decision ; it occurred, at the last 
extremity, under the inexorable pressure of events. 

1 German summer time. 


52 


THE ARMY’S DEFENCE OF BELGIUM 


Before parting with his Army, the King made a final 
proclamation : 

“ G.H.Q., May 28/fc, 1940. 

“ Officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and Men, 

“ Plunged unexpectedly into a war of unparalleled 
violence, you have fought courageously to defend your 
homeland step by step. 

“ Exhausted by an uninterrupted struggle against an 
enemy very much superior in numbers and in material, we 
have been forced to surrender. 

“ History will relate that the Army did its duty to the full. 
Our Honour is safe. 

“ This violent fighting, these sleepless nights, cannot have 
been in vain. I enjoin you not to be disheartened, but to 
bear yourselves with dignity. Let your attitude and your 
discipline continue to win you the esteem of the foreigner. 

“ I shall not leave you in our misfortune, and I shall watch 
over your future and that of your families. 

“ To-morrow we will set to work with the firm intention 
of raising our country from its ruins. 

“ Leopold.” 

The Army had resisted the German aggression with all 
the means in its power. Its inability to check it was due to 
military events outside its control, events which occurred 
elsewhere. The Army had continued to fight desperately, 
despite the fact that it was irrevocably lost by the failure 
of the counter-attack to check the German envelopment. 
It did not lay down its arms until — with its back to the sea, 
hemmed in to the last remaining strip of territory, and with 
no means of escape — it could continue the struggle no longer. 
As he had proclaimed in order to strengthen the courage of 
his soldiers at the height of the battle, its Commander-in- 
Chief has since finked up his future with that of the Army. 
By his dignified attitude, in the captivity to which he has 
condemned himself, by his refusal to recognize the accom- 
plished fact, he has shown himself to be the incarnation of a 
people which will not accept servitude. 


Appendix 1 

SPEECH BY THE KING TO THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS 
ON OCTOBER 14TH, 1936 

Gentlemen, 

In taking the constitutional oath, Belgian sovereigns under- 
take to maintain the integrity and independence of their country. 

I, like my predecessors, intend to keep this solemn promise. 
That is why I was anxious to preside over this Council which is 
to draw up measures for submission to Parliament for the purpose 
of providing Belgium with a military status adapted to the present 
circumstances. 

For over a year already, the Government has been considering 
how we can strengthen our present military position. 

There were several reasons for this : 

(a) German rearmament, following upon the complete 
remilitarization of Italy and Russia, caused most other States, 
even those that were deliberately pacific, like Switzerland and the 
Netherlands, to take exceptional precautions. 

( b ) There has been such a vast change in methods of warfare 
as a result of technical progress, particularly in aviation and 
mechanization, that the initial operations of an armed conflict 
can now be of such force, speed, and magnitude as to be par- 
ticularly alarming to small countries like Belgium. 

(c) Our anxieties have been increased by the lightning reoccupa- 
tion of the Rhineland and the fact that bases for the start of a 
possible German invasion have been moved near to our frontier. 

(d) At the same time, the foundations of international security 
have been shaken because conventions, even conventions freely 
subscribed to, have been violated, and in the present circum- 
stances it is almost impossible to adapt the Covenant of the 
League of Nations so as to prevent such violations. 

(e) Lastly, there is a danger that the internal dissensions in 
certain States may lead other States to be embroiled in rivalry 
between different political and social systems and may let loose a 
fiercer and more devastating conflagration than that from the 
after-effects of which we are still suffering. 

It might perhaps be as well to recall here the successive stages 
through which the examination of the military problem has 
passed during the last few months. 

This summary will also show that the series of studies has now 
been completed. 


53 


54 APPENDIX 1 

The need for adjusting our military forces to meet external 
risks and dangers became apparent in the spring of 1935. The 
Army General Staff placed various schemes before me, and 
finally, in November 1935, 1 approved of a programme the main 
principles of which seemed to me to constitute a minimum. 

This programme was submitted to the Government, which 
formed a small committee to make a thorough investigation of 
the problem of security. 

On February 7th, 1936, the Cabinet Council agreed upon the 
text of a draft military law ; this did not meet with the approval 
of all sections of the Chamber, and the Government agreed to the 
tabling of an amendment providing for the immediate application 
of Article 53 of the Militia Law. The Bill as amended was passed 
by the Chamber on April 6th. 

Meanwhile, it was suggested on January 10th that the whole 
problem should be discussed by a mixed commission. 

This idea was welcomed in political and parliamentary circles. 

The mixed commission was set up by Royal Decree on March 
25th, 1936. 

After thirty-seven meetings, during which every aspect of the 
problem was discussed, the commission completed its work and 
reached a number of conclusions. While there is some difference 
of opinion as to their application, there is unanimity on general 
principles, particularly on the need for a permanent covering 
force. The main suggestions — purchases of material, anti- 
aircraft defence, fortification, the calling-up system — call for an 
immediate decision. 

In any event, the new Militia Law must be passed before 
December 1st, as the call-up of the 1937 class begins on that date. 

Furthermore, in view of the dangerous international situation, 
the country will expect the Government to submit the necessary 
proposals to Parliament without delay. Again, the precise 
nature of the problem should be explained to the public. 

Our military policy, like our foreign policy, on which it 
depends, must aim, not at preparing for a more or less successful 
war, following upon a coalition, but at keeping war from our 
territory. 

The reoccupation of the Rhineland strained the Locarno 
agreements in both the letter and the spirit, and we are now in 
almost the same international situation as before the war. 

Because of our geographical situation we need a military 
machine large enough to dissuade any of our neighbours from 
making use of our territory to attack another State. By the 
discharge of this mission, we make a valuable contribution 
towards peace in Western Europe; and ipso facto it gives us a 


APPENDIX 1 55 

right to the respect, and if necessary to the help, of all the States 
that are interested in peace. 

I believe Belgian opinion is unanimous as to these principles. 
But our undertakings should not go beyond that. A unilateral 
policy would weaken our position abroad and rightly or wrongly 
would cause dissension at home. An alliance, even if it were 
purely defensive, would not lead to the desired object; for 
however promptly an ally might come to our aid, the impact of 
the invasion — and it would be overwhelming— would come 
first, and we should have to meet it by ourselves. 

In the absence of a defence system of her own, capable of 
withstanding the invader, the invasion would penetrate deeply 
into Belgium at the very beginning and she would be devastated 
at once. Afterwards friendly intervention might, of course, ensure 
final victory, but in the process the country would suffer ravages 
such as would be infinitely worse than those of the war of 1914-18. 

That is why our policy must be “ solely and exclusively Bel- 
gian,” as the Minister for Foreign Affairs said recently. Its 
resolute aim must be to keep us out of the conflicts of our 
neighbours ; it is in keeping with our national ideals. It can be 
maintained by a reasonable military and financial effort, and it 
will be welcomed by Belgians, all inspired by an intense and 
primordial desire for peace. 

Let any who doubt whether such a foreign policy is possible 
consider the proud and confident example set by Holland and 
Switzerland. 

Let them remember how much Belgium’s scrupulous obser- 
vance of her neutrality weighed in our favour and in favour of the 
Allies during the whole of the war and the subsequent settlement. 

Morally our position would have been incomparably weaker at 
home, and the world would not have shown us so much sympathy 
if the invader had been able to point to an alliance between our- 
selves and one of his opponents. 

It is therefore, I repeat, solely at preserving ourselves from war, 
wherever it may threaten, that our military system must aim ; and 
it is important that public opinion should be absolutely certain of 
this. 

Our military status, which derives from the 1929 Militia Law, 
though excellent in various respects, is no longer suitable, having 
regard to the new possibility of a sudden invasion. It secures 
neither the permanent defence of our frontiers, nor safety to 
mobilize, nor the concentration of the Army. A more or less 
unexpected irruption might, in a few hours, seize valuable 
sureties and paralyse irrevocably the greater part of our forces. 

This defective machinery is in urgent need of repair. I have 


5 


56 APPENDIX 1 

called you together so that we may decide how this shall be done. 

As representatives of the three great traditional Parties, who 
speak for the vast majority of Belgians, I hope you will approve 
the Bill of the Minister of National Defence. 

If you can unite in a spirit of high patriotic understanding to 
solve the military problem, you will at the same time restore to 
the country the necessary serenity of mind in the face of outward 
events and the atmosphere of security essential to general 
prosperity. 

Thus you will once again prove to the country that the chief 
preoccupation of the National Coalition Government is to put 
the higher interests of Belgium above everything else. 


Appendix 2 

FRANCO-BRITISH DECLARATION OF APRIL 24TH, 

1937 1 

In accordance with instructions received from their respective 
Governments, His Majesty’s Ambassador and the French 
Ambassador have the honour to make the following communica- 
tion to the Belgian Government : 

1. The Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain 
and Northern Ireland and of the French Republic have not failed 
during the last few months to give their full attention to the desire 
of the Belgian Government to have the international rights and 
obligations of Belgium clarified in certain respects where this is 
rendered necessary by her geographical position and by the 
delays which may still occur before the negotiation and conclusion 
of the general Act intended to replace the Treaty of Lausanne. 

2. The Government of the United Kingdom and the Govern- 
ment of the Republic, being anxious to give full expression to 
their sympathy with this desire of the Belgian Government, have 
agreed to make the following declaration : 

3. The said Governments have taken note of the views which 
the Belgian Government has itself expressed concerning the 
interests of Belgium, and more particularly — 

(1) The determination expressed publicly and on more than 
one occasion by the Belgian Government : (a) to defend 
the frontiers of Belgium with all its forces against any 
aggression or invasion, and to prevent Belgian territory 

1 British White Paper, Cmd. 5437. 



APPENDIX 2 57 

from being used, for purposes of aggression against 
another State, as a passage or as a base of operations by 
land, by sea, or in the air; ( b ) to organize the defence of 
Belgium in an efficient manner for this purpose; 

(2) The renewed assurances of the fidelity of Belgium to the 
Covenant of the League of Nations and to the obligations 
which it involves for Members of the League. 

4. In consequence, taking into account the determination and 
assurances mentioned above, the Government of the United 
Kingdom and the Government of the Republic declare that they 
consider Belgium to be now released from all obligations towards 
them resulting from either the Treaty of Locarno or the arrange- 
ments drawn up in London on March 19th, 1936, and that they 
maintain in respect of Belgium the undertakings of assistance 
which they entered into towards her under the above-mentioned 
instruments. 

5. The Government of the United Kingdom and the Govern- 
ment of the Republic agree that the release of Belgium from her 
obligations, as provided for in paragraph 4 above, in no way 
affects the existing undertakings between the United Kingdom and 
France. 

Acknowledgment of Receipt 1 

The Royal Government has taken note with great satisfaction 
of the declaration communicated to it this day by the Govern- 
ment of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern 
Ireland. It thanks the Government of the United Kingdom 
warmly for this communication. 


Appendix 3 

SPEECH IN THE CHAMBER OF REPRESENTATIVES 
BY M. SPAAK, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, 
ON APRIL 29TH, 1937 

COMMUNICATION FROM THE GOVERNMENT 

M. Spaak, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade . — 
Last Saturday M. Laroche, Ambassador of France, and Sir 
Esmond Ovey, Ambassador of Great Britain, handed me the 
Franco-British Declaration which you will no doubt have read 
in the newspapers. 

I should like, however, to remind you of it, for I want you to 
1 British White Paper, Cmd. 5437. 


58 APPENDIX 3 

have its terms in your minds while I am speaking. It reads 
as follows : 

“ In accordance with instructions received from their respec- 
tive Governments, His Majesty’s Ambassador and the French 
Ambassador have the honour to make the following communica- 
tion to the Belgian Government : 

“ 1. The Governments of the United Kingdom of Great 
Britain and Northern Ireland and of the French Republic have 
not failed during the last few months to give their full attention 
to the desire of the Belgian Government to have the international 
rights and obligations of Belgium clarified in certain respects 
where this is rendered necessary by her geographical position 
and by the delays which may still occur before the negotiation 
and conclusion of the general Act intended to replace the Treaty 
of Lausanne. 

“ 2. The Government of the United Kingdom and the Govern- 
ment of the Republic, being anxious to give full expression to 
their sympathy with this desire of the Belgian Government, have 
agreed to make the following declaration : 

“ 3. The said Governments have taken note of the views which 
the Belgian Government has itself expressed concerning the 
interests of Belgium, and more particularly — 

“ (1) The determination expressed publicly and on more 
than one occasion by the Belgian Government : (a) to 
defend the frontiers of Belgium with all its forces 
against any aggression or invasion, and to prevent 
Belgian territory from being used, for purposes of 
aggression against another State, as a passage or as a 
base of operations by land, by sea, or in the air; ( b ) 
to organize the defence of Belgium in an efficient 
manner for this purpose; 

“ (2) The renewed assurances of the fidelity of Belgium to 
the Covenant of the League of Nations and to the 
obligations which it involves for Members of the 
League. 

“ 4. In consequence, taking into account the determination 
and assurances mentioned above, the Government of the United 
Kingdom and the Government of the Republic declare that they 
consider Belgium to be now released from all obligations towards 
them resulting from either the Treaty of Locarno or the arrange- 
ments drawn up in London on March 19th, 1936, and that they 
maintain in respect of Belgium the undertakings of assistance 
which they entered into towards her under the above-mentioned 
instruments.” (Hear, hear !) 



APPENDIX 3 59 

“ 5 . The Government of the United Kingdom and the Govern- 
of the Republic agree that the release of Belgium from her 
obligations, as provided for in paragraph 4 above, in no way 
affects the existing undertakings between the United Kingdom 
and France.” 4 „ „ . , , « 

I handed the two Ambassadors the following reply on behalf 
of the Government : 

“ Brussels, April 24th , 1937. 

“ VrUTR P YPFT T PNCY 

“The Royal Government has taken note with great 
satisfaction of the declaration communicated to it this day by 
the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and 
Northern Ireland. It thanks the Government of the United 
Kingdom warmly for this communication. 

“ I have the honour, etc.” (More signs of approval.) 

I think it only right to add to my own expression of satisfaction 
the expression of Belgium’s gratitude. For some months I have 
found in British and French statesmen— Mr. Eden as well as 
M. Blum and M. Delbos — and also M. Laroche and Sir Esmond 
Ovey, for I must not forget these good servants of their own 
countries who are also great friends of ours — the most loyal and 
complete spirit of understanding and collaboration. (Hear, 
hear!) 

Mr. Eden said the other day at Brussels : 

“ Every country has different problems to face. Every 
country has its own internal troubles ; every country has special 
difficulties for which a special solution is necessary. In these 
circumstances, we must — each in so far as we are concerned 
make allowances if we are to make any progress.” 

How could we fail to arrive at a solution when the statesman 
with whom we discuss our problems is inspired by such concilia- 
tory wisdom ? , _ . , A , - . 

M. Blum and M. Delbos showed no less foresight, and what 
has happened in the last few days is therefore really the result 
of understanding and mutual confidence between France, Great 
Britain, and Belgium. 

I should like to tell you all once more m public— you who 
represent the nation — that while it is true that we have been 
released by our great neighbours from certain legal obligations, 
they have acquired a new title to our friendship and gratitude. 

(Loud applause.) . 

Six days ago, then, an important change was made in our 

international status. 

The first question we must answer is this: Were there any 


60 APPENDIX 3 

reasons why we should try to define and specify our international 
rights and duties in a new form ? I do not think there can be the 
slightest doubt as to the importance, the absolute necessity, of 
doing so. 

To be sure of this we have only to remind ourselves of what 
our status was before. We have only to compare the period 
when it was thought out with to-day. 

Belgium was happy to sign the Treaty of Locarno, and I 
sincerely believe she was right to sign it, for she obtained some- 
thing that was essential to her security — the guarantee of France, 
Great Britain, and Italy. 

However, the Treaty of Locarno imposed on us certain 
obligations which, though we were able to support them ten 
years ago, now seem to be far too onerous. 

By the Treaty of Locarno, Belgium guaranteed to maintain 
the territorial status quo arising out of the frontiers between 
Germany and France and also the inviolability of those frontiers. 

Thus, Belgium guaranteed France against a possible German 
attack ; but — and many Belgians seem to have forgotten this — 
she also guaranteed Germany against a possible French attack. 

By the Treaty of Locarno, despite the fundamental differences 
in our situation and in our available resources, we adopted 
exactly the same attitude and obligations in Western Europe as 
did our greater neighbours. 

That was unquestionably daring. It is true that the atmo- 
sphere in Europe, as well as certain special circumstances, were 
such as to explain and justify our boldness. 

The Germany of that time was almost disarmed, and there was 
reason to hope that the world would be wise enough to seek 
salvation in concerted and controlled disarmament. That 
hope is to-day disappointed — temporarily, I hope — but truth 
compels us to admit that Germany has again become a great 
military nation, and that in all countries throughout the world 
the armaments race has begun again with an intensity never 
before equalled. 

That is the first fundamental difference between 1920 and 1937. 

In 1925, there was a demilitarized zone. Articles 42 and 43 
of the Treaty of Versailles were still effective. Article 1 of the 
Treaty of Locarno referred specifically to them. There is no 
need for me to emphasize the importance of the demilitarized 
zone for our military security in the event of a German attack. 

In 1936, Germany reoccupied the demilitarized zone, revers- 
ing the former situation and facing us with a new fact. 

How could we fail to take account of it in formulating our 
international status ? 


APPENDIX 3 


61 


Lastly, in 1925 Germany was preparing to enter the League of 
Nations, and we were preparing to welcome her, knowing lull 
well that her presence at Geneva would enhance the League s 
prestige and make it more effective. 

Germany was ready in 1925 to accept the obligations and 
duties to which we subscribed when we adhered to the Covenant ; 
her policy was to be based on the same principles as ours, and 
that was an important factor in our security. , 

Germany has now left the League; unfortunately, the hour 
for her return has not come yet. This fact must also be taken 

simple reminder of the past, this simple comparison 
between 1925 and 1937, brings out the difference between the 
problems facing us to-day and the problems that faced us twelve 
years ago. It explains why different solutions are justified. 

^ The story would, however, be incomplete if I omitted the 
events of March 7th, 1936. In reoccupying the demilitarized 
zone, in repudiating the Treaty of Locarno, Germany placed 
France, Great Britain, Italy, and Belgium m a difficult 

Slt ]ta London, the three countries most directly concerned sought 
means of meeting the situation. They made arrangements which 
they themselves regarded as provisional. Above all— and i 
think I may pay them this tribute— they never lost heart, in spite 
of their very understandable bitterness and disappointment. 
They set to work again without losing hope, but with the deter- 
mination to aim at peace, whatever happened. . 

They resumed their negotiations; they reformulated their 
proposals; they tried once again to create confidence and a 

spirit of understanding. .. , ae 

The work they had undertaken was long and exacting , it was 
arduous; it required time. I still firmly hope that one day it 

W *Yet the provisional system adopted in London was particularly 
burdensome for a small country. France and Great Britain 
quite understood this; they both felt, with us, that the agreement 
reached in March 1936 to meet a new situation that had arisen 
unexpectedly should be reviewed and readjusted. 

Belgium was legitimately anxious to return at once to a more 
normal international status, a status better adapted to her 

resources and traditions. . . . 

The Prime Minister and I have often tried to explain these 
ideas. The King gave new force to them in his speech of 
October 14th, and public opinion has almost unanimously 
approved of them. 


62 APPENDIX 3 

What are the principles on which our foreign policy is based ? 

I should like to remind you of them again. We want first and 
foremost to find a formula for uniting our people. We do not 
want to make sacrifices for the sake of a specifically Walloon or 
specifically Flemish ideology. We want a policy that is solely 
and exclusively Belgian. We want a policy firmly rooted in our 
national traditions, a policy which will help us to play our part in 
Europe. 

Belgium has no direct interests outside her own frontiers ; she 
has no ambition other than to remain what she is; she seeks 
nothing ; she asks nothing of anyone but peace. (Hear, hear !) 

But — and this is both her misfortune and her greatness — she 
has for centuries been a European battlefield, a highway for 
invasion for all the conquerors. Her role, the role entrusted 
to her, one she must fulfil, is to close up on all sides and in all 
directions the way of invasion; to erect so many barriers and 
create so many difficulties on the battlefield of Europe that even 
the boldest are deterred. 

That is why our military policy is so closely bound up with our 
foreign policy. If Europe has more confidence in us to-day, it is 
not only because of our loyal attitude. It is because a few 
months ago, for the first time in our history, we all together 
shouldered the heavy burdens demanded of us. 

But apart from this we also want to contribute towards the 
collective organization of peace, towards the formulation of an 
international law. In spite of failure, in spite of disillusionment, 
we should like to feel that one day wisdom and reason will prevail. 
That is why we are faithful to the League of Nations and why we 
offer it our loyal collaboration. 

All this we have said over and over again. France and Great 
Britain heard and understood ; in their joint declaration they 
defined our foreign policy in terms not a single word of which do 
I need to alter : 

“ The said Governments have taken note of the views which the 
Belgian Government has itself expressed concerning the interests 
of Belgium, and more particularly — 

“ (1) The determination expressed publicly and on more than 
one occasion by the Belgian Government : (a) to defend 
the frontiers of Belgium with all its forces against any 
aggression or invasion, and to prevent Belgian territory 
from being used, for purposes of aggression against 
another State, as a passage or as a base of operations 
by land, by sea, or in the air ; ( b ) to organize the defence 
of Belgium in an efficient manner for this purpose ; 



APPENDIX 3 63 

“ (2) The renewed assurances of the fidelity ol Belgium to 
the Covenant of the League of Nations and to the 
obligations which it involves for Members of the 
League.” 


Having thus defined our foreign policy, France and Great 
Britain of their own accord took a twofold decision. They re- 
leased us from the guarantees we had given them in Locarno and 
London, and they maintained the guarantees they had given us 
That is our new position. I very sincerely believe that it 
represents an improvement on which we can congratulate our- 
selves. • • 

Why an improvement ? Because it is simple ; because it is 
clear ; because we now know exactly what our obligations are ; 
because from now on there is only one ground on which we can 
be forced to make war : one ground about which there can be no 
discussion, no controversy; one ground about which we should 
all be united and resolute— the defence of our territory against 
an enemy attack. (Hear, hear !) . . 

The declaration of April 24th is not a treaty in the strict sense. 
It is a spontaneous act on the part of France and Great Britain, 
but it is justified by the definition of our foreign policy. It 
follows that if one day we use our freedom to modify our policy, 
France and Great Britain will be entitled to withdraw their 

guarantee. , . . , 

There can be no doubt as to these principles. 

I therefore sincerely believe that everyone will admit that we 
are in a stronger position to-day than we were before, since, 
while we are released from some of our obligations, we retain all 

° U But g tMs brings me to the possible objection of those who feel 
we are being selfish, those who, in the language of international 
law, affirm that we have failed to be loyal to the principles of 
collective security and mutual assistance. 

Frankly I do not agree. But if we are to make ourselves 
heard and understood, we must break down the barrier, tear 

away the screen of language, and get at the facts. 

If collective security is a notion that implies that all States, 
whatever their size, whatever their strength or their traditions 
or their geographical situation, must adopt the same attitude, must 
subscribe to the same undertakings, if it means that Belgium s 
policy must be identical with the policy of France, Great Britain, 
or Germany, then I say collective security is a vague ideology 
which can never be of any service, for it is deeply opposed to the 
facts and possibilities, (Hear, hear !) But if collective security 


64 APPENDIX 3 

means that to promote the common welfare of all peoples, the 
organization and maintenance of peace, each State must do its 
utmost to play its part in so far as its resources permit, then I 
agree, and I would add that that is Belgium’s position. For 
what is important is not what undertakings we give, but what 
undertakings we keep. And I repeat once more that in organiz- 
ing our national defences, in making a great military effort, in 
not quibbling about what form aggression against us may take, 
in facing the cruel risks that all this entails, Belgium is giving 
Europe everything she can give, everything that Europe can 
legitimately ask of her. (Hear, hear !) 

That, then, is how Great Britain and France and Belgium have 
settled for themselves the obligations of the past. 

There remains the future. 

The efforts begun during the past few months will continue. 
The Franco-British Declaration makes this clear. In particular, 
an immediate solution was sought and found for certain problems, 
seeing that the negotiations for a Western pact may take some 
time. 

Belgium intends to take part in these negotiations. The 
Government is well aware that the work will not be completed 
until formulas have been found that are acceptable to 
Germany. 

I have already explained how much importance I attach to 
the last declaration of the Chancellor of the German Reich. It 
testified to a state of mind which we cannot but approve; it 
suggests possibilities which I have no intention of abandoning. 
The difficulties are not insurmountable. The state of mind with 
which we approach them is a fundamental factor in success or 
failure. The state of Europe is better to-day than it was six 
months ago, and the Franco-British Declaration is a new 
factor making for appeasement. 

It is a fact that most European statesmen have a good-will 
towards peace, and we must have confidence. 

We have passed the first stage. I envisage the stage we are now 
approaching with optimism. That is all I need say about the 
Franco-British Declaration. 

There remain two problems which are not dealt with in the 
declaration. But I should like to say a few words about them, 
for I know Belgian public opinion and European public opinion 
are interested. I refer to the interpretation of Article 16 of the 
Covenant and to what is known as the question of General 
Staff agreements. 

I shall have very little to say about Article 16, for I think it is 
for the Assembly at Geneva to give an official interpretation of 



APPENDIX 3 65 

the texts. But in view of the present discussions, the Chamber 
will expect me to express some opinion on it. 

Moreover, I hope what I am going to say will help to clear up 
a problem which will only become more confused and difficult 
to solve if we are unduly cautious and subtle. 

Here I am following the example of M. de Graeff, the honour- 
able Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, who has 
just made important and noteworthy declarations in the Nether- 
lands Parliament. 

The most important and most difficult part of Article 16 is the 
paragraph before the last dealing with the right of passage : The 
Members of the League of Nations “ will take the necessary steps 
to afford passage through their territory to the forces of any of 
the Members of the League which are co-operating to protect 
the covenants of the League.” 

How and when would this operate ? 

It is quite extraordinary— and I might almost say disquieting— 
that so important a text, the application of which may produce 
serious consequences, should still be left open to individual 
interpretation. 

As far as the Belgian Government is concerned, there are two 
conditions fundamental to affording the right of passage through 
our territory. The first is that on no hypothesis could passage be 
afforded without the consent of Belgium. The second is that 
Belgium could only give her consent in the case of joint action. 

There does not seem to me to be any serious doubt as to these 
two conditions. 

The first is the only possible interpretation compatible with our 
full sovereignty, the only interpretation compatible also with our 
public law. 

This is so obvious that I do not need to demonstrate it. 

The second condition— that there must be joint action— follows 
from the text itself. . . 

I would not, of course, go so far as to maintain that joint 
action means the effective participation of all the Members of the 
League of Nations without exception; but it does mean, if we are 
to be reasonably satisfied, that our neighbours must participate. 

Those are the main ideas I hope to defend at Geneva when 
the question is raised there. (Hear, hear !) 

In so far as General Staff agreements are concerned, my reply 
will be clear. The Franco-British Declaration of April 24th 
closes for us the period that might be described as the era of 
military agreements, and I am glad of it. (Hear, hear !) 

Here some explanation is called for. 

I am glad of it, not because these agreements were bad, but 


66 APPENDIX 3 

because in spite of the facts, in spite of affirmations ten times, 
twenty times, repeated by all my predecessors, they lent them- 
selves, both at home and in Europe, to confusion and mistrust. 

To some of us they were proof of our enfeoffment to one of 
our great neighbours. Others regarded them as an essential 
factor in our national defence. Each view was as false as the 
other. 

Now these military agreements are done away with, I solemnly 
repeat again that they were not political ; that they in no way 
impaired our independence; and that the spirit in which they 
were conceived was always the spirit in which they were applied. 

That being so, where are we now ? 

The merit of the Franco-British Declaration, as I have said 
already— and I now repeat it— is to have clarified the situation. 
For us to-day there is only one possible ground for war — national 
defence. 

The military problems of our responsible authorities are there- 
fore now freed of any superfluous complications due to our 
responsibility for guarantees. 

The problem is simplified — it is a purely technical problem. 

Our foreign policy is now in line with what we can do in the 
military sphere. 

We are free to deal quite independently with the technical 
problem ; we have not agreed, and we shall never agree, to the 
slightest interference, the smallest restriction. 

Once again we give a formal undertaking : whatever we ought to 
do to ensure the national defence, within the lines laid down above, 
will be done. 

That is the end of this unduly lengthy declaration. I have 
nothing of importance to add to it. 

The Government of national coalition and renewal has set 
itself the task, with the support of your confident co-operation, of 
making Belgium more prosperous, more socially developed, and 
more strong. 

It is convinced that in attaining to the stage of foreign policy I 
have just described, it has made a useful contribution to that end. 

It awaits and expects your approval. Your approval will 
crown its efforts, and once again the world will have the spectacle 
of a free people, magnificently confident of the destiny of the 
Fatherland. (Loud applause.) 


APPENDIX 4 67 


Appendix 4 

GERMAN DECLARATION OF OCTOBER 13TH, 1937 

Monsieur le Ministre, 

I have the honour, on behalf of the German Government, 
to make the following communication to your Excellency: 

The German Government has taken cognizance, with particular 
interest, of the public declarations in which the Belgian Govern- 
ment defines the international position of Belgium. For its part, 
it has repeatedly given expression, especially through the declara- 
tion of the Chancellor of the German Reich in his speech of 
January 30th, 1937, to its own point of view. 

The German Government has also taken cognizance of the 
declaration made by the British and French Governments on 
April 24th, 1937. 

Since the conclusion of a treaty to replace the Treaty of 
Locarno may still take some time, and being desirous of strength- 
ening the peaceful aspirations of the two countries, the German 
Government regards it as appropriate to define now its own 
attitude towards Belgium. 

To this end it makes the following declaration : 

(1) The German Government has taken note of the views 
which the Belgian Government has thought fit to express ; that 
is to say : 

(a) Of the policy of independence which it intends to exercise 
in full sovereignty ; 

(b) Of its determination to defend the frontiers of Belgium with 
all its forces against any aggression or invasion, and to prevent 
Belgian territory from being used, for purposes of aggression 
against another State, as a passage or as a base of operations by 
land, by sea, or in the air ; and to organize the defence of Belgium 
in an efficient manner for this purpose. 

(2) The German Government considers that the inviolability 
and integrity of Belgium are common interests of the Western 
Powers. It confirms its determination that in no circumstances 
will it impair this inviolability and integrity, and that it will at 
all times respect Belgian territory, except, of course, in the event 
of Belgium’s taking part in a military action directed against 
Germany in an armed conflict in which Germany is involved. 

(3) The German Government, like the British and French 
Governments, is prepared to assist Belgium should she be sub- 
jected to an attack or to invasion. 

I have the honour, etc. 




68 APPENDIX 4 

Acknowledgment of Receipt 

The Belgian Government has taken note with great satisfaction 
of the declaration communicated to it this day by the German 
Government. It thanks the German Government warmly for this 
communication. 


Appendix 5 

DECLARATION MADE BY KING LEOPOLD ON BEHALF 
OF THE HEADS OF THE STATES OF THE OSLO GROUP, 
AUGUST 23RD, 1939 

The declaration I am about to read is made at the Palace of 
Brussels before the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and on behalf 
of the Heads of the States of the Oslo Group. 

Theworld is passing through a period of tension which threatens 
to put a stop to all normal collaboration between States. Great 
Powers take measures that amount almost to the mobilization of 
their armed forces. Have not the small Powers good reason to 
fear that they may become the victims of a conflict into which 
they might be drawn against their wills ? Although they 
have indubitably followed a policy of independence and have 
made no secret of their strong determination to remain neutral, 
are they not open to the danger of being affected by arrangements 
made without their knowledge ? 

Even in the absence of hostilities, the world is threatened with 
economic collapse. Distrust and suspicion are everywhere. 
Under our very eyes the factions are gathering; the armies are 
forming; a terrifying struggle is about to begin in Europe. 
Shall our Continent destroy itself in a fearful war in which there 
will be neither victor nor vanquished, a conflict that will engulf 
the spiritual and material values built up through centuries of 
civilization ? 

The war psychosis is invading our own lands, and public 
opinion, though well aware of what an unthinkable disaster a 
conflagration would constitute for the whole of mankind, is 
increasingly giving way to the idea that we must inevitably be 
drawn into it. We must counteract this fatal mood of resigna- 
tion. 

Not a single people — we are absolutely convinced — would 
willingly send its children to their death in order to deprive other 
nations of their right of existence. 

States have, of course, different interests. But are there any 


appendix 5 69 

interests that cannot be reconciled with one another more easily 
before than after a war ? 

Let the conscience of the world be roused! The worst may 
still be avoided, but time presses. The course of events may very 
soon render any direct contact between us even more difficult. 

Let there be no mistake ! We know that the right to live must 
be founded on a firm basis, and the peace that we want is peace 
with respect for the rights of all nations. A durable peace can- 
not be based on force. It can only be based on a moral order. 

Does not wisdom command us to make a truce of this war of 
words, of provocations and threats, to be ready to discuss our 
problems with one another ? We solemnly urge those who hold 
the future in their hands to agree to submit their disputes and 
their claims to open negotiation in a spirit of brotherly co- 
operation. 

For that reason, on behalf of : 

His Majesty the King of Denmark, 

The President of the Republic of Finland, 

Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess of Luxemburg, 

His Majesty the King of Norway, 

Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, 

His Majesty the King of Sweden, 
and on my own behalf, each of us acting with the approval of our 
Governments, I make this appeal. We hope that other Heads of 
States may show the same solicitude for the peace and security 
of their peoples and may join their appeal to ours. 

To-morrow hundreds of millions will welcome our plea that 
the course of the war be arrested. May those who hold the 
future of the world in their hands show themselves responsive to 
these sentiments and see that their often-expressed desire to settle 
their differences by peaceful means is achieved. 

And may the disaster which threatens mankind be averted! 


Appendix 6 

DECLARATION MADE BY THE AMBASSADOR OF 
GERMANY ON AUGUST 26TH, 1939 

In view of the gravity of the international situation, I am expressly 
instructed by the Head of the German Reich to transmit to Your 
Majesty the following communication : 

Though the German Government is at present doing every- 
thing in its power to arrive at a peaceful solution of the questions 
at issue between the Reich and Poland, it nevertheless desires to 


70 appendix 6 

define clearly here and now, the attitude which it proposes to 
adopt towards Belgium should a conflict in Europe become 

' n ?he German Government is firmly determined to abide by the 
terms of the Declaration contained in the Ge^n No^of 
October 13th 1937. This provides, in effect, that uermany 
wSt no cL’umstances impair the inriotabUity and >£egr,tyof 
Belgium and will at all times respect Belgian territory, tne 
German Government renews this undertaking however in the 
expiation that the Belgian Government for its pa£ vnU 
observe an attitude of strict neutrality and that Belgium wm 
tolerate no violation on the part of a third Power, but that o 
contory “he will oppose it with all the force at her disposal It 
goe wfthout saying that if the Belgian Government were o 
fdont a different attitude, the German Government would 
naturally be compelled to defend its interests in conformity with 
the new situation thus created. 

Appendix 7 

DECLARATION MADE ^ 

GREAT BRITAIN ON AUGUST 271 ti, 

His Maiesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have neglected 
m stens which might contribute to the maintenance of peace 
Should these efforts fail, they know that Belgium will scrupulously 

feffWawassraSfrsS 

DECLARATION MADE BY THE ^BASSADOR OF 
FRANCE ON AUGUST 28TH, 

French Embassy in Belgium, 

Brussels, August 28 th, 1939. 

THE Government of the Republic have neglected steps which 
might contribute to the maintenance of peace. Should these 


Ambassade de France 
en Belgique 


Bruxelles. le 28 Aoftt 1939* 


Le Gouvemement de la R6publique n a rien n4g g 
de CB qui pout contribuer au ma tat Ion de ta paix. Si ses 
efforts venaient a tahouer, il salt qua le Gouvemement 
Beige aaurait ae conformer emctement a aes obligations 
intemationales . 

Dane le caa ob la Belgique adopter-ait une position 
de neutrality le Gouvemement Franjata resteralt, blen 
entenau, comme en 1914, rtaolu a respecter pleinement cette 
neutrality Ce n-est qutau =as ob la neutrality Beige ne 
serait pas respectta par une autre Puissance que la France, 
pour assurer sa propre defense, pourreit Hr. amenta a mo- 
difier son attitude. 

Los engagements d-assistance quo le Gouvemement 
franqaie a pris envers la Belgique et qui out H4 -pres- 
ent maintenus dana sa communication au Gouvemement 
beige du 24 Avril 1937 conservent natureluement eur P 
ue valour./ • 

c- “■ * ““-’s.risS.’ur"’ 


71 


72 APPENDIX 7 

efforts fail, they know that Belgium will scrupulously abide by 
her international obligations. If Belgium adopts an attitude of 
neutrality, the French Government will, of course, as in 1914, 
be resolute to respect this neutrality fully. Only in the event of 
Belgian neutrality not being respected by another power would 
France be led to modify its attitude in order to ensure its own 
defence. The undertakings of assistance which the French 
Government has entered into towards Belgium, and which were 
expressly maintained in the communication to the Belgian 
Government of April 24th, 1937, naturally retain their full effect. 


Appendix 8 

DECLARATION OF NEUTRALITY 
September 3rd, 1939 

The Belgian Government declares that it is firmly determined to 
maintain its neutrality in the conflict which has just broken out 
in Europe. Consequently, the following rules will immediately 
be put into operation : 


I 

No hostile act shall be permitted and no base for hostile 
operations shall be established within the limits of the jurisdiction 
of the State, including the territory of the Kingdom in Europe 
and the Colonies and Possessions under mandate, the territorial 
sea and the air space over such territory and territorial sea. 

Territorial sea shall be understood to mean the sea round the 
coast to a breadth of three nautical miles, at the rate of 60 per 
degree of latitude, measured from the low-water line. 


II 

It shall not be permitted : 

1. For any part of the territory whatsoever to be occupied by 
a belligerent military force; 

2. For troops or convoys of munitions or war supplies to enter 
or pass through this territory by land ; 

3. For belligerent warships or similar vessels to enter or pass 
through the territorial sea ; 

4. For belligerent military aircraft or similar aircraft to enter 
or traverse the territory, territorial sea or air space over such 
territory or territorial sea within the jurisdiction of the State. 


APPENDIX 8 73 


III 

Merchant vessels armed for defence may enter and remain 
in ports and roadsteads after complying with the prescriptions 
enacted by the local authorities in the interests of security. The 
number of such vessels in each port or roadstead, however, may 
not exceed the maximum laid down by the local authorities in 
the interests of the security of the country. 

Vessels carrying not more than two guns of a calibre of over 
8 cm. and under 16 cm. and a crew not appreciably larger in 
effectives than is required for commercial operations shall be 
regarded as armed for defence. 


IV 

Troops or soldiers forming part of a belligerent force who 
may come within the jurisdiction of the State shall be disarmed 
andintemed. 

Warships or similar vessels belonging to the belligerents which 
shall infringe the provisions of Article 2 or Article 7 shall be 
seized, and their crews and any military passengers shall be 
interned. . . 

Military aircraft or similar aircraft belonging to the belligerents 
which shall enter the jurisdiction of the State shall be seized and 
their crews shall be interned. Such aircraft shall be forced to 
land or to alight should they fail to do so of their own accord. 

Aircraft on board a warship or similar vessel shall be deemed 
to form part of the latter, provided that while the vessel remains 
within the jurisdiction of the State they remain on board. 

V 

Notwithstanding Article 4, the following shall not be interned : 

(a) Shipwrecked persons, or persons who are sick or wounded, 
provided they have not taken part in hostile acts within the 
jurisdiction of the State ; 

(b) Soldiers on board a merchant vessel not ranking as a 
warship, which is merely calling at a port or roadstead ; 

(c) Escaped prisoners of war ; 

(6?) Deserters. 


VI 

The provisions of Articles 2 and 4 shall not apply to : 

(1) A belligerent warship or other similar vessel which is able 
to prove that by reason of damage sustained or the condition of 



74 APPENDIX 8 

the sea, it is compelled to enter a port or roadstead of the State, 
provided that it shall not be pursued by the enemy. 

A vessel may only repair damage in so far as this is essential 
to safe navigation, and it may not in any manner whatsoever 
increase its military strength. 

It shall leave the said port or roadstead as soon as the circum- 
stances which caused it to take refuge there shall have ceased 
to exist. The Government may fix a time-limit after which the 
vessel may be seized and the crew and military passengers interned. 
Members of the crew and military passengers who remain on land 
after the vessel has left shall be interned. 

(2) Warships and similar vessels which are able to prove that 
they entered the jurisdiction of the State owing to force majeure 
and in spite of having taken every precautionary measure to 
avoid it. 

(3) Warships, aircraft, or similar vessels and machines which 
are employed solely for religious, scientific, or philanthropic 
missions. 

VII 

A belligerent warship or similar vessel which may find itself 
in a port or roadstead, or even in territorial waters, when war 
breaks out, shall leave within a time-limit laid down by the local 
authorities. 

Belligerent aircraft or similar aircraft within the jurisdiction of 
the State on the publication of the Declaration of Neutrality shall 
be interned. 

VIII 

In the cases provided for under Articles 6 and 7, if warships 
or similar vessels belonging to the two belligerent parties should 
find themselves simultaneously in close proximity to one another, 
at least twenty-four hours shall elapse between the departure of 
the vessel of one belligerent and the departure of the vessel of 
the other belligerent. 

Vessels shall leave in the order in which they arrived, except 
in special circumstances. 

A belligerent warship may not leave a port or roadstead until 
at least twenty-four hours after the departure of a merchant 
vessel flying the flag of its enemy. 

IX 

Warships or similar vessels covered by Article 7 shall only be 
permitted to revictual in ports and roadsteads for the purpose of 
replenishing their normal peace-time stores of food and water. 


APPENDIX 8 75 

Similarly, such vessels may only take on fuel to enable them to 
reach the nearest port in their own or allied country. 

Warships or similar vessels covered by Article 6 (1) may 
replenish their stores of food, water, and fuel in so far as this is 
necessary for their requirements during their stay. 

X 

Prizes may not be taken into waters subject to the jurisdiction 
of the State. 

Should a prize be taken into the said waters, it shall be released, 
together with its crew. 

The crew placed on board by the captor shall be interned, 
provided that the prize was not brought in owing to damage or 
to the bad condition of the sea. 

XI 

Any war material washed ashore or found in the sea and 
subsequently brought to land shall be seized unless it is necessary 
to destroy it in the interests of public safety. 

XII 

Combatant corps may not be formed or enlistment offices 
opened in the territory of the State for the benefit of the belli- 
gerents. 

XIII 

It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to 
take service on board belligerent warships or similar vessels. 

It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to 
fit out, arm or equip vessels intended to assist in hostile operations 
against a belligerent, or to supply or conduct such vessels to a 
belligerent. .... „ , _ 

It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to 
supply arms or ammunition to warships or similar vessels be- 
longing to a belligerent or to assist them to augment their fighting 
strength. 

XIV 

It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to 
repair warships or similar vessels belonging to a belligerent or 
to supply them with materials for repairs, tools, supplies, water, 
or fuel, unless permission has been obtained beforehand from 
the competent local authorities. 




76 


appendix 8 
XV 


i Tt shall be prohibited to form supplies of arms, ammunition, 
l : r emirs fuel and any articles useful for the conduct 

^ “e ^jec? of seeking an opportunity to hand 
hem oven’o the maritime forces of a belligerent in close proximity 

0 7 th ' SimUariTit shall be prohibited to convey arms, ammunition, 
renairs fuel or any article useful for the conduct 
oflhe war directly out of the territory to belligerent vessels near 
the coast. 

XVI 

i Aircraft shall not be permitted to leave if it is either in a 

SSEi-sSE 

feSSSSse- 

b t StepSited to execute on an aircraft any work intended 

wWchcOTmmthin th e jurisdiction of the State after the declaration 
of war, with the permission of the Government. 

XVII 

It shall Pi^^^ai^^whatsMVCTfo°Mria/obsemti'ons 

*SSSsseBsMt«s: 

belligerent. 

XVIII 

Tt shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, for 
a bell^erent Power or persons in his service .to mstaU or operate 
wireless stations or other means of commumcation. 

XIX 

i Tt shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, 
touse wkeless stations for transmitting information relating to 
the^ilitaryforces of the belligerents or to military operations 
in a belligerent country. 


77 

appendix 8 

2 . Wl.hin 
information. 

The Government draws Liv^ricriy^wit^tlm above rules 
population to its d "f XchTould St be t ™ch lt as \o compromise 
the neutrality and interests of the country. 


Appendix 9 

ORDER OF ™E s D« OJ k THEK..NO TO THE ARMY, 

“ To-day I take over the "show by its valour 

StSifice rirTtit is worthy of the confidence which the 
whole nation places in it. 

Appendix 10 

sreech by th^ f ■*. 1 ° SW vmm 

It is a great honour to me to be speakmj &Tthe FOTMt^nvite- 
SstSSo the American nation with great 

^ fellow-countrymen, the U^tS^States^Not 

precious and very friendly effectively and sympatheti- 

one Belgian can have forgo Belgian people by directing 

cally the American people he' toed B^an p 

I regard the S subject proposed an appeal for the defence of 

civilization-as a tridu ^/° ^ve had in mind that the Belgians 
Those who suggested it ’ wil 11 hi iw e 1 history of the western 

“i’Sd’iSc" » .... .f a.. 

centre’s for the '^fending civilization by 

I am convinced that my , ^ European conflict, and 

can coS myself to describing it to my American 


78 


appendix 10 


listeners. It is an attitude that is in complete harmony with 
the desires the courage, and the honour of my people. 

As Head of the State, I am happy to have an opportunity of 
placing the following facts on record. . i f 

P In 1937 Belgium proclaimed her independence, and each of 
her three great neighbours took note of her declaration Indeed, 
they went further— they gave us, of their own accord, formal 
assurances that they would respect our terntory and would 
marantee the independence of Belgium. The declaration of 
neutrality by the Belgian Government at the beginning of the 
war was the logical conclusion of this policy. 

Neutrality is, moreover, quite in keeping with the traditions 
and aspirations of the Belgian people whose sentiments and 
attitude of mind were forged during age-long struggles. Belgians, 
who possess the most acute sense of individual hberty have paid 

for their institutions at the cost of their own blood and by their 
steadfast determination to remain themselves. 

Neutrality is also vital to my country’s interests. Belgium i 
a small territory but one of the most densely populated m the 
world and she depends mainly for her existence on the labour 
of her people; and this, in its turn, depends on the maintenance 
of our export trade and on the free flow of our industrial suppli 

an So 0l for°the Belgian people, peace is a matter of life or death. 

We have no territorial ambitions whatsoever. Nor have we 
had anything to do with the origin of the European conflict, 

either directly or indirectly. . . . , tprr5torv 

But if Belgium were to become involved in it, her teirit y 
would be turned into a battleground; and because her area is so 
small, that would mean total destruction, whatever might be the 

0U Be°lgium!' side beside with Holland, stands, in the interests of 

al pi a a S ced P aUhe U LTsTroads of the boundaries of western Europe, 
Belgium — neutral and loyal-and strong, as she is to-day— 
fulfils a fundamentally peaceful mission; she sets limits to th 
battlefield- she wards off family bereavement. Together with 
the other neutral States she constitutes a citadel of peace; she is 
a factor making for that spirit of ^conciliation which l done can 
save our civilization from the abyss into which general war 

W °We arequitfclear as to our duties and our rights; we await 
the future calmly and steadfastly, with a clear conscience. We 
are ready to ensure with all our force that our independence is 
respected. 


79 

appendix 10 

he lt up u 7 P U bVattacked-and may God preserve us front such 

to us in 1937 and renewed on the eve ot me an(J thU 

without any would be behind the Army, 

time once again the whoie coun y ^ t0 res pect 

But we cannot believe that fte belb .gerents win 

our neutrality We have “““'Xir mrn can have confidence 
before always be true 
To that loyalty, as sovereigr i of a free nation to 
May I venture to aspirations and 

whom we feel very near because r ^ sustain us our 

efforts^ promote'the'cause of peace in the service of civilization. 
Appendix 11 

TELEGRAM FR^Q^I^^LHEL^NA AND^KIN^ 

LEOPOLD TO THE HEADS OP ^ BRITAIN, 

germanv, da FRANCE V em AND 7t GRE 939 

In this hour °t^ r t “ S b ^ e r a k ^taEuro^’, ^fed convinced 

declared, a short time ago that they wouw d^p ^ 
examine the reasonable an ^ present circum- 

We feel that it would bed.fficultfor diem, in the p^ tQ 

stances, to get into touch wi are therefore ready, as 

and reconcile their points of v . W terms with 

sovereigns of two h^l State h " good offices. If this 

psrKffKffiwssa. 4, - «. 

factors likely to make for agreemen^ ^ haye tQ fulfil for the 

fetrtqfwffl be made towards^t^estaMshwnt of laatog peace. 

The Hague, November 1 th . 


80 APPENDIX 12 


Appendix 12 

SPEECH IN THE CHAMBER OF REPRESENTATIVES 
BY M. SPAAK, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, ON 
DECEMBER 19TH, 1939 

M. Spaak, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade . — I 
should be wanting in gratitude and a sense of justice if, at the 
beginning of this speech, I did not thank the leaders of groups for 
the words they have spoken and the sentiments they have 
expressed. 

In the difficult times which are undoubtedly still ahead of us, 
there could be no more hopeful sign that we shall overcome our 
difficulties than our unity on foreign policy, a unity from which 
a people like ours derives its greatest strength. 

M. Delwaide, M. Huysmans, and M. Hymans have made my 
task easy. They have, I feel sure, interpreted the views of the 
vast majority of the people of this country who approve the 
Government’s foreign policy. 

Let it suffice then to repeat here with emphasis that “ Belgium 
is neutral and intends to remain neutral as long as her indepen- 
dence, the integrity of her territory, and her vital interests are 
not threatened.” 

In this Belgium is within her rights, and I would add that she 
is doing her duty to herself. 

There is, then, no difference of opinion as to principles. Not 
one Belgian in a thousand would ask or would desire that we 
should take part in the war that is rending Europe unless implac- 
able necessity compels us to do so. 

That being so, I have no need to explain or justify once more 
our country’s attitude; and I should much prefer to confine 
myself to emphasizing that public opinion is almost unanimous. 

Why then do I offer you explanations ? 

Because I feel you ought to know the Government’s views on 
one or two points. 

I will enumerate them in the order in which I want to deal with 
them: (1) Rights and duties of neutrality; (2) Offer of good 
offices of November 7th and our relations with the Netherlands ; 
(3) Russo-Finnish conflict. 

The Government has been accused of taking too narrow, petty 
and, as it were, pusillanimous a view of neutrality. 

This criticism seems to me to be quite undeserved. The 
Government is, indeed, very conscious of the difficulties facing it, 
of its responsibilities. It is undoubtedly in a better position than 
anyone else to weigh up the dangers we are running and the odds 


appendix 12 


81 


we are up against. It is not surprising, therefore, that its reac- 
tions should differ from the reactions of those whose hearts rule 
their heads. But no one in the Government has ever maintained 
that neutrality should force us to condone injustice, to remain 
silent before the cruelties of war. No one has ever maintained 
that a neutral Belgian must be an indifferent Belgian. And the 
history of to-day cannot efface the history of yesterday. Such 
truths have often been proclaimed, and not a member of the 
Government would deny them. But has not the time come for 
me to repeat once more — at the risk of boring you — the words of 
J. Bainville, whose wisdom and profundity I appreciate the more 
as my experience widens: “ You must will the consequences of 

what you want ” ? . , . , . 

The fact that the Belgian State is neutral with the consent- 
nay more, with the approval— of the vast majority of Belgians, 
imposes on it certain duties, particularly the duty of loyalty to 
the belligerents— duties hallowed by tradition. It also entitles 
the Government to urge that in expressing our views we should 
cultivate a sense of balance, a sense of proportion and dignity. 
Quite apart from any legal controversy as to the meaning of neu- 
trality can you not see that life would soon become impossible, 
in practice, and that neutrality itself would be singularly com- 
promised, if the neutral State maintained normal relations with 
all the belligerents, while at the same time its citizens, letting their 
sense of friendship and their feelings run away with them, lost all 
sense of proportion and gave free rein to both their sympathies 

and their antipathies ? . , ... 

I repeat that to-day personal liberty must be squared with 
national discipline, and that to sacrifice exaggerated utterances 
is a very small contribution if it helps to strengthen our 

P Thasten to add that fortunately the situation has greatly im- 
proved. The daily Press, in particular, has made a praiseworthy 
effort and the moderation with which it supports certain views 
does not in any way detract — far from it — from their influence. 

The almost irreproachable discussions in this Chamber also 
show that we can be neutral without in any way giving up our 
intellectual independence; neutral, as we wish to be, without 
weakness, but also without giving any provocation. 

On Tuesday, November 7th, the Queen of the Netherlands 
and the King of the Belgians again made a united appeal to the 
belligerents, offering their good offices in seeking reasonable 
and sound bases for an equitable peace.” Everyone understood, 
everybody in Belgium approved, the King s action. 

M. Carton de Wiart points out in his report that my presence 


82 APPENDIX 12 

at The Hague was a sure sign that the step taken by our Sovereign 
was strictly constitutional. 

May I say that in the circumstances I am not content with 
constitutional correctness. I feel I should thank the King in 
public for the magnificent efforts he has made for several years to 
spare our country the horrors of war (loud applause); for the 
wise advice he has always given to the various Governments that 
came into power one after another; for the strength of mind with 
which he fulfils his very heavy task; for the example he has 
always set those with whom he comes into contact, an example 
which compels respect, admiration, and affection. (Hear, hear.) 

Only those who are unwilling to understand can have had any 
hesitation as to the significance of the appeal of the two Sovereigns 
and can have attributed to them mysterious motives or aims. 

After appealing in very clear terms to the belligerents, offering 
their good offices, the Queen and King said : This would seem to 
us to be our mission, a mission we have to fulfil for the good of 
our own people and in the interests of the whole world. 

The good of our people and the interests of the whole world : 
those two ideals the Sovereigns and their Governments do not 
dissociate. In seeking to establish reasonable and sound bases 
for an equitable peace, they intend to devote themselves to this 
stirring task. 

That their words were not heard, that we must assume that it is 
still too soon and that the hour of peace has not yet struck, I 
cannot but record with regret, with emotion, with some anxiety, 
too. And I hope that later on no one will have cause to regret 
the failure of this effort. 

The common effort of the Sovereigns and their Governments 
provided an opportunity, as the official communique of November 
7th pointed out, to reaffirm the solidarity of interests of the 
Netherlands and Belgium. 

It has recently been stressed in this Chamber and elsewhere by 
several speakers ; it is sincerely appreciated throughout the whole 
country. 

It is a fact — one of the plainest facts — the most obvious facts — 
of the present day ; and I find it difficult, I must say, to under- 
stand why some people close their eyes to it on the misleading 
pretext that they and they alone defended it here some years ago. 

For my part, I have no hesitation in saying that from the 
military as well as the economic and moral point of view, an 
independent and neutral Holland is of vital importance to Belgium. 

I do not think it necessary to labour so obvious a truth. 

I am even more anxious than I was — what has happened makes 
it necessary — that there should be nothing mechanical about 


appendix 12 83 

Belgian foreign policy. I want to be quite free to form a judg- 
ment in the light of all the facts. For that reason, I think it 
would be unwise to decide now what attitude we shall have to 
adopt if the situation in Holland changes. But I should like to 
make it clear that it would be madness to suppose such an event 
would leave us indifferent. (Loud applause.) 

As far as I am concerned— and I am sure I am speaking for the 
whole Government— I am deeply conscious of the ties between 
Belgium and the Netherlands. (Hear, hear.) 

The Government is indignant at the Soviet aggression against 
Finland. (Loud applause from most Parties.) 

M. Lahaut. — Long live the Soviets! (Vehement protests from 
most benches.) Down with the capitalist war! 

The President. — Order, please, M. Lahaut. 

M. Relecom. — You did not say that, M. Spaak, about 
Czechoslovakia and Poland! (Lively interruptions from most 
benches. Uproar.) 

M. Delattre. — Long live Finland! 

M. Relecom.— Yes, long live the Finnish people! 

The President.— I would ask the Communist members to 
stop making doubtful comments. (Applause from most 
benches.) . 

M. Delattre. — Long live the Finnish children, who are being 
pitilessly massacred! (Several members intervened. The Presi- 
dent struck the table with his mallet.) 

The President. — The Minister for Foreign Affairs has the 
floor and no one else. 

M. Relecom— The Minister for Foreign Affairs has gone too 
far. 

M. Bohy. — You have gone too far yourself by supporting a 
foreign Government. . „ 

M. Lahaut.— It is an imperialist war. I am against all 
imperialism. I am against Italy ; I am against Germany. (Vio- 
lent interruptions.) 

The President. — Order, please, M. Lahaut. 

M. Lahaut.— I don’t care. (Loud protests.) 

The President.— Does the Chamber desire it to be recorded in 
the verbatim report of the meeting that I have just called M. 
Lahaut to order ? (Yes! Yes!) 

This proposal was put to the vote and was adopted by rising 
or remaining seated. 

M. Spaak, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.— ■ 
These interruptions only serve to emphasize that there is unani- 
mity in the Chamber and throughout the country. (Hear, 
hear.) 




84 APPENDIX 12 

We cannot keep silent when an innocent little country is 
attacked and allow it to be assumed from our silence that we 
think the attack is justified and even normal. 

Even small countries are entitled to live. They too are centres 
of culture, of civilization, of social progress. And when, like 
Finland during the past few years, they have carefully avoided 
diplomatic intrigue, simply affirming their desire to live free and 
independent among their powerful neighbours, they are entitled 
to our sympathy in their misfortune. (Loud applause.) 

M. Seghers (in Flemish). — Hear, hear! 

M. Spaak, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade . — 
When, like Finland, they fight one to ten or twenty they also 
have a right to our admiration. (Hear, hear.) 

In its misfortune, the Finnish Government turned to the 
League of Nations. What could they hope for from this appeal 
to law when law was daily broken ? 

Did they still believe in collective security ? I doubt it, and I 
can assure you that I heard of this step with a pang. 

Was I wrong ? I do not want to judge other people. I know 
what very complicated and dangerous situations can arise. 
All I want is to justify Belgium’s attitude. 

The Soviet Union, a Member of the League of Nations— and 
what a Member! — attacked Finland, another Member of the 
League. The Soviet Union refused to attend to explain the 
matter, and contemptuously— I might almost say cynically- 
refused every proposal for an understanding, preferring force to 
any form of conciliation. 

The Argentine Republic proposed that the Soviet Union be 
suspended from the League. I did not feel the Belgian Govern- 
ment could have the slightest hesitation. Consequently it voted 
in the Council of the League for the suspension of the Soviet 
Union. 

No one asked me for any explanation whatever, for everyone 
approved. (Hear, hear.) 

We know that this gesture had only moral significance. We 
know that it did not give effective help to Finland. 

It is very difficult for little countries, at a distance from one 
another, to testify to their feeling of fellowship. We are power- 
less before this tragedy, but we are ready to collaborate in any 
humanitarian work that may serve, however slightly, to alleviate 
the sufferings of an heroic people. (Interruptions from the 
Communists.) 


APPENDIX 13 85 


Appendix 13 

SECRET INSTRUCTIONS TO THE COMMANDER OF 
THE 2ND LUFTFLOTTE FOUND IN A GERMAN 
AEROPLANE ON JANUARY 10TH, 1940 

The following documents were in possession of a Staff Major 
of the 7th Air Division (parachutist and transport of troops by 
air — Headquarters at Berlin) who made a forced landing in 
Belgium on January 10th, 1940. The Major had been attached 
to Unit 220 of Troop Transport by Air (F1.F.220), and, when 
captured, was flying to Cologne to discuss the scheme at the 22nd 
Infantry Division headquarters. Our Intelligence had ascertained 
the 22nd Division as specially trained for landing from the air in 
enemy territory. 

DOCUMENT I 

Air Force Command Instructions, 2 

File of 17/1 1 /39 to be destroyed (?) 

pp. the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force 
The Chief of Staff 
by order 

(signature undecipherable) 
Lieutenant-Colonel , General Staff. 


Copy 

TO: No, 

IV Aviation Corps 1 

VIII Aviation Corps 2 

7 Aviation Division . . . . . . . . • • • • 3 

Commander of Air Carrier No. 220 and to 22nd Infantry 

Division . . . . . . . • • • • • • • 4 

II Anti-Aircraft Defence Corps . . . . . . . . 5 

Headquarters of VI Air Region 6 

Headquarters of XI Air Region 7 

Reconnaissance Group No. 122 . . . . . . . . 8 

For the information of: 

G.H.Q. of Air Force 9 

B Group of Armies 10 

Also to the Air Command 11 

Liaison Officers at B Group of Armies 12 

Army Headquarters, No. 6 13 



86 APPENDIX 13 

Air Force Command 14 

Staff: 

Staff-Commander .. .. .. .. .. ..15 

Chief of Staff 16 

Deputy Chief of Staff . . . . 17 

Intelligence Section .. .. .. .. .. 18 

Operations Section, No. 2 19 

A.Q 20 

Officer in Charge of Signals . . . . . . . . 21 

Operations Section, No. 1 . . . . . . 22 

Reserve 23 & 24 


British Army here (?) 

between Douai and Calais. Behind the whole of this zone 
important operative reserves are held deep in Northern France. 

The Belgian Army covers the Liege-Antwerp line with its main 
force, lighter forces are in position in front on the Meuse-Scheldt 
Canal and on the frontier. 

Only light forces of the Dutch Army are in position south of 
the Waal. 

For weather conditions and information about the enemy : see 
Ic 1 No. 7212/39 Chief of General Staff of 3/11/39. 

3. The German Western Army directs its attack between the 
North Sea and the Moselle, with the strongest possible air-force 
support, through the Belgo-Luxemburg region, with the object 

of 

the largest possible groups of the French Army and of its 


The fortress of Li6ge and 

surrounded (?) 

Further, it is intended, with the help of part of the force (10th 
Army Corps reinforced by 1 Cavalry Division), to seize Dutch 
territory, with the exception of Festung Holland. 

5. Composition of Army Group B: see Appendix 2. 

6. Co-operating Forces: 

(i a ) The 3rd Luftflotte attacks, with all the weight of its aircraft, 
the French Air Force on the ground, and prevents it from taking 
part in land operations. 

Later, it prevents the advance of the French Armies moving 
north-east from their concentration areas. 

The 3rd Luftflotte co-operates also with its Northern Wing 
(1st Aviation Corps) with Army Group B. 

( b ) The X Aviation Corps, directly under orders from Air 
Force Headquarters, operates in close co-operation with the 


appendix 13 87 

naval forces and the F.d., Luft against the enemy naval forces and, 
in particular, against the British naval forces. 

its reserves and *. ' ’ Y ' ’ V-* ‘p 

With regard to home defence against air attack, the cruel 
object is to protect the ground and war industries organizations. 

8. Forces. — Disposition of the troops and points to be attacked 
— see Appendix 1. 

9. Reconnaissance. - 

(a) Air General Headquarters : reconnaissance to the west ot 
the line Le Havre-Orl6ans-Bourges-Lyon-Geneva. 

(b) 2nd Luftflottes : reconnaissance by Reconnaissance Group 
122 to the north-west and west of the line Western Frisian Isles- 
Amsterdam-Antwerp-Brussels-Nivelles (islands and towns in- 
cluded). 

Task . . T 

(a) Find out the disposition of the enemy Air Force in North- 
ern France and Belgium. 

( b ) Watch the areas where the British Army is concentrated, 
detect as quickly as possible any movements from that area 
towards Belgium in the direction of Brussels-Ghent. 

Left boundary 

Li&ge-Charleroi-Valenciennes-Amiens-Dieppe. 

(these towns included) 

(/) Crossing of the frontier by reconnaissance planes first on 
the day A at H plus 5 minutes. 

10. Task of the VIII Aviation Corps: 

On the first day of the attack, the VIII Aviation Corps supports 
with part of its forces a landing operation of the VII Aviation 
Division (see special order). 

Closely co-operating with the 6th Army (mam action to the 
west of Maastricht), it supports the advance of the land forces 
attacking the fortified line and the streams of the basin of the 
Meuse and destroys the Belgian Army to the west of that region. 
Attacks against towns and villages during the course of these 
operations are only permitted if it is absolutely certain that they 
are occupied by troops. 

Its fighter squadrons have to obtain command ot the air over 
the area of attack of the 6th Army. 


7 


88 APPENDIX 13 


DOCUMENT 2 
Appreciation of the Situation 

1. Terrain. 

On either side of the Meuse a high plateau with heights rising 
to .... m. Very uneven, in places great differences in height, 
ravines. 

Clayey ground, medium heavy to heavy. Only sparsely (?) 
populated. The operational area of the Division is on the whole 
thickly wooded. 

The Meuse itself constitutes a marked cleft, deeply cut out. 
Width of river 100 m. Banks rising steeply and mainly wooded. 
Observation very difficult. 

Parachute troops can be dropped everywhere in .... the 
bridges. 

Air-borne troops can only be landed at points 15 km. west of 
the Meuse on the line Vitrival, M. . . ., Posee. 

The country is similar in many respects to that of Freuden . . . 
and troop movements ... not very mobile will be hindered. On 
the other hand, it lends itself to defence by groups . . . widely 
separated. 

2. Landing Grounds. 

Five landing grounds have been reconnoitred. Of these, three 
are suitable in mild weather (I, III, V), two are suitable only 
under certain conditions (II, IV). In frosty weather all are 

suitable. On the whole some 30 per cent, bad landing 

conditions as for “ Enterprise ” (?). 

The whole of the landing troops of the division can be engaged. 

Time required : Parachuting and landing of the 1st (?) Division. 

A slight frost gives most favourable conditions 

reducing as much as possible the jump 

troops. 

3 . At the cutting of the Meuse, the Division should 

(objective) and keep open 

Road-bridge of Annevoie. 

Road bridge Yvoir (here point of main action). 

Bridge Dinant-Namur (north-west ) 

4. If the country between the Meuse and the French frontier 

up to should not be occupied by enemy troops, the 

landing would at first be unopposed. The landing grounds to 
the north can, it is true, be shelled by the heavy guns at Namur 
(15 km.) if they should be discovered. 

However, enemy attacks from the fortress of Namur must be 
expected very soon, and also perhaps from Charleroi, Philippe- 
ville, and Givet. 




CV.efsacV.e vos IT- 11 ’ 


IV r dnr 


# 


zwieeher. Douai and 

der Tiefe des nordfranz ■ aiochen Gefcietes stwrite 

Reserven. 

Baa belgische Heer deckt nit Kaase die Linie LUttich - 
, rp en, schwuchere Krafte an den Maaa-Scnelde-K*r.al and 
die Grenze vorgea-U.oben. 

Vom holl&ndischer. Heer sind aiidlich des Waal nur 
Kraft e sur Sicherung singe aetzt . 

Luftlage und Feindbeurteilung la einzelner. siehe I e 1 
Hr. 7212/39 g.Kdos.Chefsaehe vom 3 . 11 . 1939 * 

a-.t-ch. '..B*heer fuhrt ..in. Offensive e.i.ohen UV 
nit stairkater Untsratiiteung dureh di<o 
durcn den bVigiach-l^eraburgiechen Kuum mit dec. Zw**V 
ichst Starke Tall* dea franzdaiachen Heeree -and 


Copy of Secret Instructions of the German Command 

Facing p . 88] 



n Muar und franz.Grente *>** 

W ird Landung aunUcnst un^e< 
kttnnen alleidinga durcl 
(15 Km) gcfaast warden, f&l- 


L1 it folndlr AngrUfen aue F< 
hirl roi, aua philippeville 


lUi-nur 


; n ,3 stftrkcr< 


little Mrube-ige 


— 


Bald nr 


Llr.lt ^ 

, a .if otraBe ...car - Charleroi (beaoftdWj 

b) ouf StraSc Maato.,.1^ - Beaumont - P««j 

c) Strafle Philipi^ville - Givct, J 

cl) straDo Fourm a - Chioay - Couvin - ^ 
. ) Litraflt- Kocrcl - Mariembourg - i'niliMj 

Florcnnos, .JImH 

1 ) . t .r " Fumay ~ 

-rs . 

-■■ 3 -jjm 


Copy of Secret Instructions of the German Command 


appendix 13 


The chief threat 

advance units can te on the spot m a j^Jthe^nning of the 
5. This is why 

landing operation, large forces o] ou 

enemy concentrations on the line Maubeuge-H, 

—against troops ^ tran^rt »ovmg^^ A^^nt) ; 

(6) on the road Maubw^-Beaumont-PliilipP ev *^ e (specially 

(d) road FovMtesr-^toar^Cowdnj-^^U ^ 

(specially important), (important); 

( g ) railway Mons-Charlerot 1 

(h) railway Maubeuge (specially important); 

(i) railway Charleroi • l s P ec “ y 

(k) railway PQ TJ as ti’e r e : 

(m) f Them for the protection of the Division 

road Marche-Leignon-Ach 

tr:L C whlX^y our own aircraft is forbidden is 

^°roadf Rmere-Florette to ^^j^g^Fiorennes, ^p to "road 
raUway (?) Chatelet through Gerpmne , e the forbidden 

Philippeville-Dinant (this ral ™| , crossing up to Hermeton 

“straight (?) up to the Anseremme 
SrilgfS^ed in the zone)-line 4 km. east of 

U r e uTand ^ntovenents df ^‘frontier towafte 
south of Liege-at n^t ^es to th. shortest route m 
Meuse, through MalinMy-Ciney, y 

“iTihe^weather conditions, any detour would only cause 



90 


APPENDIX 13 


APPENDIX 13 


A 


groups also stationed more to the west fly, on their way to the 
front, near 

The intervention of the Division with more than 600 tons of 
transport planes and at this spot where the effect will be most felt 
by the enemy decides the chief point of concentration of enemy 
aircraft. 

The Division is threatened more from the air than from the 
ground. This is why strong heavy fighter and fighter aircraft 
formations are necessary : 

(a) for the transport, the parachuting and finally the landing 

( very strong protection) ; 

(b) for supplies ; 

(c) against enemy air attacks (continuously and not 

only according to special orders). 

In this case this protection should be incessant 

movement and landing. Greater needs in heavy fighters and 

.... G. . . . 

To satisfy this need. fighting area should only be 

110 km. from the frontier (?) and should only imply 

200 km. flight over enemy territory 


DOCUMENT 3 


Namur and the immediate vicinity (21 

Art.) and light forces Ard between Ourthe (here point 

of main attack) ( point) and the Meuse 2 

Cavalry Divisions. 

At Charleroi 3rd Regiment of Gendarmerie. 

French Forces are concentrated on the frontier 

ready to march (to the west of the Meuse) 

Army and parts of the 2nd Army with mechanized cavalry and 
infantry Divisions. Forward elements in the Givet wedge. To 
the east of the Meuse positions are in the course of construction 
along the railway line Namur-Assesse-Ciney-Jemelle. 

2. The Meuse itself is only defended by light forces stationed 
at the bridges. On the Meuse between Namur and the frontier 
no permanent fortifications. Special preparations for demolition 
and blocking are not known here, but are likely. 

The region between the Meuse and the French frontier to the 
west and to the south-west is entirely free from enemy troops. 

3. It must be expected that the hostile Walloon population will 


91 

wage guerrilla warfare (sharp-shooting from the houses and 
hedges). 

4. The possibility of requisitioning (in order to enable I In- 
troops to move rapidly and to keep supplied) should only be 
considered with reservations owing to the sparsely populated 
nature of the region. 

5. Defence against enemy aircraft in the area of operations of 
the 1th Air Division (FI. Div. 7). 

In the operational area Namur-Dinant — and in the neigh- 
bouring region no fighters nor anti-aircraft defence have been 
detected so far. 

Anti-aircraft guns assumed at Charleroi. 

Fighters. 

At St. Hubert — 1 squadron of single-seaters, only at intervals. 

Liege — 1 group of single-seaters. 

Nivelles — 1 group of single-seaters. 

Besides important concentrations of French fighters in Ra 
Verdun. 


Grandmenil (33 km. west St. Vith) at intervals. 

North of Huy, light anti-aircraft guns. 

At St. Hubert, heavy anti-aircraft guns at intervals. 

(s) Student. 

This copy certified correct. 

Puttner (?) 

Major , General Staff. 

Appendix 14 

SPEECH IN THE SENATE BY M. SPAAK, MINISTER FOR 
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, ON APRIL 16TH, 1940 

M. Spaak, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade . — 1 
feel sure the Senate will understand that I should like to make a 
short statement at the beginning of this debate. 

For nearly eight months, Western Europe has been under arms. 
Millions of men mount guard round our frontiers and challenge 
one another. 

Ten days ago two nations, two friendly nations, were drawn 
into the turmoil. 

We are following Norway’s efforts all the more sympathetically, 
in that she was always a great lover of peace and was loyally 
neutral. (Hear, hear.) (Applause from all parties.) 


92 APPENDIX 14 

She was therefore in much the same position as ourselves. 
Her sentiments were our sentiments. 

This country had enriched our European civilization by its 
labour, by its social legislation, by the sum of progress it repre- 
sents ; and in many ways we liked to think of it as a model. 

Some of us might have had doubts as to its warlike qualities. 

What strikes me most in Norway’s heroic stand is that love 
of peace, respect for neutrality, the often-repeated desire to spare 
one’s country the horrors of war do not in any way diminish but 
rather heighten fierce determination to defend the soil of the 
Fatherland when it becomes necessary. (Loud applause from 
all parties.) 

To other countries Norway’s attitude will be a lesson and an 
example. This war, which is spreading, this war which is affect- 
ing the most innocent, this war which strikes at those who least 
deserve it, forces us to consider our own position, to consider 
what we have done — in a word, to take our ov/n bearings. 

I, like all of you no doubt, have often thought during the past 
few months about our foreign policy during the past five years. 

Once again the other evening I reread the different diplomatic 
documents concerning Belgium and the declarations accompany- 
ing them. 

And once again I arrived at the reassuring conviction that our 
foreign policy had been perfectly loyal and clear, perfectly cor- 
rect. (Hear, hear.) 

Few countries can have defined their objectives so clearly; 
confined themselves to promises they could be sure of keeping ; 
enlightened their neighbours as to their intentions. There was 
not — there is not — any change, any element of surprise. What- 
ever happens, nobody can say Belgium deceived them. (Fur- 
ther marks of approval.) 

On April 29th, 1937, I said in the Chamber: 

“ What are the principles on which our foreign policy is based? 

“ I should like to remind you of them once again. We want first 
and foremost to find a formula for uniting our people. We do 
not want to make sacrifices for the sake of a specifically Walloon 
or specifically Flemish ideology. We want a policy that is solely 
and exclusively Belgian. We want a policy firmly rooted in our 
national traditions, a policy which will help us to play our part in 
Europe. 

“ Belgium has no direct interests outside her own frontiers ; she 
has no ambition other than to remain what she is; she seeks 
nothing ; she asks nothing of anyone but peace. 

“ But — and this is both her misfortune and her greatness — she 
has for centuries been a European batttlefield, a highway for 


APPENDIX 14 93 

invasion for all the conquerors. Her role, the role entrusted to her, 
one she must fulfil, is to close up on all sides and in all directions 
the way of invasion ; to erect so many barriers and create so many 
difficulties on the battlefield of Europe that even the boldest are 
deterred. 

“ That is why our military policy is so closely bound up with our 
foreign policy. If Europe has more confidence in us to-day, it is 
not only because of our loyal attitude. It is because a few months 
ago, for the first time in our history, we all together shouldered 
the heavy burdens demanded of us.” 

Two years later, on June 8th, 1939, M. Pierlot in his turn 
summarized our chief aspirations : 

“ The main object of our policy of independence, in so far as it 
rests with us, is to preserve our country from the scourge of war. 
Belgium is a resolutely pacific country. She is determined not to 
take up arms except against an aggression directly aimed at her 
vital interests. In other words, the only ground for war that we 
would accept is national defence. But in such a case, we are 
ready to make every sacrifice, because more important than peace 
are liberty and honour.” (Loud cheers.) 

These few sentences of which you have just signified your 
approval, these principles which you have ratified by your votes, 
still hold good to-day. 

In 1935 the Treaty of Locarno was torn up and the last illusion 
about the League of Nations was shattered. We were faced 
with this dilemma: an alliance with the Great Powers or inde- 
pendence. 

We did not want an alliance, whatever our sympathy with our 
possible partners, for it would have made of us mediocre fol- 
lowers, it would have involved us in an international policy that 
we were not strong enough to apply; it would have led us 
irresistibly to war. 

We wanted to remain ourselves, to remain, as far as possible, 
masters of our fate. We wanted in so doing to play the part which 
geography and history have assigned to us in Western Europe. 
We dreamed of being a crossroads where all the great currents of 
civilization might peacefully cross one another. We have told 
everybody what we should like to be, what we want to do. It is 
a good thing, it is useful, to recall to-day that France, Great 
Britain, and Germany solemnly proclaimed that this policy was 
justified. 

Our neighbours who, at the beginning of the present conflict, 
solemnly confirmed their determination to respect our territory, 
have themselves summed up in terms we cannot but accept 
certain principles underlying our policy. 


94 APPENDIX 14 

They have taken note of our determination expressed publicly 
and on more than one occasion to defend the frontiers of Belgium 
with all our forces against any aggression or invasion, and to 
prevent Belgium from being used, for purposes of aggression 
against another State, as a passage or as a base of operations by 
land, by sea, or in the air. 

Though we have concluded no treaty, in the actual meaning 
of the word, with France, Great Britain, or Germany, we have 
entered into a moral undertaking to which we intend to adhere, 
so long as the situation in Western Europe remains what it is to- 
day. 

International law, international morality, have sustained violent 
blows in recent times. In spite of all, they remain a refuge for 
small nations, and, whatever the transgressions of others, Belgium 
would never be justified in breaking her word. 

We shall never give up our chief claim to consideration — our 
loyalty. 

The discreet policy we have adopted is justified by our general 
desire to avoid war, but also by our more definite desire to avoid 
becoming once more the battlefield of Europe. 

Those in other countries who judge us severely or give us 
advice, those at home — happily they become fewer every day — 
who disapprove of the Government’s policy, have not under- 
stood what will happen to us if this policy fails. 

As early as October 14th, 1936, the King said : “ In the absence 
of a defence system of her own, capable of withstanding the 
invader, the invasion would penetrate deeply into Belgium at the 
very beginning and she would be devastated at once. Afterwards 
friendly intervention might, of course, ensure final victory, but in 
the process the country would suffer ravages such as would be 
infinitely worse than those of the war of 1914—18.” 

No country wants war ; no country would agree to be a field of 
battle. 

The Scandinavian countries showed this during the Finnish 
war. The Balkan countries are wise and sensible, and do not 
risk lighting a fire that would, they realize, assume devastating 
proportions. 

The great belligerent countries themselves have taken their 
precautions. 

France has her Maginot line; Germany has her Siegfried line; 
Great Britain has the sea. 

Behind this triple belt, they can face the idea of war because they 
feel safe. Belgium could not build ramparts on her threatened 
frontiers : it would have been out of proportion to her resources. 
She did what she could in the military sphere, and she is happy 


APPENDIX 14 


95 


to have done so, but she sought rather to complement her security 

in the diplomatic field. . . 

I do not want to paint a picture of the horrors our country 
might have to endure if it were involved in war— it would be only 
too easy to do so. But I venture to say that our fate would be 
worse than that of any other belligerent. This alone is sufficient 
justification for our efforts, and I am not ashamed of egoism, the 
sacred egoism which inspires me when I am fighting to spare 
Belgium an ordeal she has not deserved. (Loud applause.) 

All these ideas, all these principles, were ours before the war. 
We have been guided by them for the past eight months, and we 

still believe in them. . „ ...... ... 

I am glad to say we have not had a single incident with the 

belligerents that has led to a really serious situation. 

Twice only— at Nivelles at the begmmng of the war and, more 
tragically, at St. Hubert a few weeks ago— we have had to deplore 
some injured and one dead. Each time our rights were fully 
recognized ; each time we were compensated for the damage done. 

In a very difficult situation, placed as we are between great 
neighbours engaged in a formidable struggle, we stood firm 
without flinching. There was, I swear, no provocation, no boast- 
ing ' nor was there any lack of firmness and dignity. 

What helps us, what has saved us so far — I shall never weary of 
repeating— is our loyalty. Here, as in the econonuc and military 
spheres, 8 we have done everything we could and everything we 

S ^Wef have brought the country’s fighting strength up to 'the 
highest pitch, and we have never lost sight of the fact that at 
present we must depend first and foremost on ourselves. 

The public is anxious, and I can quite understand that. th^ r 
anxiety makes them too ready to listen to certain rumorns We 
must, by displaying calm, help them to overcome this tendency- 
Bel mans can be sure that the Government will not accept any 
suggestion calculated to change our policy, a pohcy approved by 
the vast majority of the people. . 

We have a very difficult task ahead of us; our responsibilities 
are very heavy. The whole future of Belgium is at stake. We are 
therefore entitled to ask for your confidence and your help. 

We are also entitled to ask you to show that national discipline 
which is so necessary to-day. We in the Government have 
sympathies and friendships too, but far above 
Love of friendship is very precious, and we all would wffimgly 
give ourselves up to it. The path of duty is rougher, yet we 

m Above all, we must protect our people; we must spare them 


APPENDIX 16 


97 


96 APPENDIX 14 

war ; we must save our children ; we must safeguard our towns and 
our countryside. 

Our duty as leaders — our duty as men — is above all to preserve 
peace. 

It is also our duty, should our independence or our vital 
interests be threatened, to be strong enough effectively to defend 
them. 

The country desires peace; the country desires neutrality. 
The country will do its duty all the better if it is compelled to do 
so, if it has the deep conviction, the absolute assurance, that its 
leaders have done their utmost to preserve peace and neutrality. 
That is our duty — our difficult but splendid duty. 

If you are only willing to help us, we shall succeed. (Loud 
applause, except from the Communists.) 


Appendix 15 

NOTE BY THE MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEFENCE, 
DATED MARCH 28TH, 1940, ON THE DEFENSIVE 
WORKS CARRIED OUT SINCE THE BEGINNING OF 
THE CONFLICT 

A formidable steel barrier divides the interior of the country 
and forms a practically impassable barrier to probable attacks 
by armoured tanks. The wall of steel constructed by our 
untrained builders is at present 70 km. long. It represents a 
weight of over 30,000 tons; 34,000 tons of steel framework, 
1,000 tons of steel cables, 150 tons of camouflage colouring, and 
about 600 tons of various materials. Thus, 35,000 tons of steel 
have been put in position in open country, across fields, woods 
and marshes, floods, rivers and railways, leaving no loophole 
for the assailant. 

Every difficulty has been overcome — gradients, mud, water. 
Neither rain nor snow nor cold have stopped the work for one 
second. In temperatures as low as — 16°, when the cold was so 
intense that the heavy pieces of steel stuck to the hands of the 
men, they doggedly continued to raise this formidable barrier 
across our fields and woods. From November 1st to December 
31st, during the rainiest season, when the winter was already very 
severe, our soldiers raised a steel wall 30 km. long in a sea of 
mud, in water and in the cold. 


Appendix 16 

MEASURES TAKEN BY BELGIUM TO STRENGTHEN 


The object of these measures is : . . 

1. To reinforce the fortified system and to strengthen the 
protective measures of the country. 

2. To increase the number of effectives on a war footing. 

3. To modernize and augment material and armament. 


I. The Belgian Fortified System and Protective Measures 

The construction of the Belgian fortified system, which was 
begun in 1928, was continued at an ever-increasing speed down 
to May 1940. The plan for the fortified system and protective 
measures was closely connected with the plan of campaign, and 
the two were developed on parallel lines. 


In the Province of Liege 

The rearming and modernization of eight old forts at Liege 
(the six forts on the right bank and the forts of Flemalle and 
Pontisse on the left bank) was begun in 1928. 

To meet the danger of a sudden attack, designed to hamper 
the mobilization of the Belgian Army, a chain of pillboxes against 
invasion was established on the line running from Jupille, Chenee, 
and Renory, covering all the roads into Liege. They were 
equipped with 47-mm. guns, searchlights, machine-guns, and 
sub-machine guns, and were guarded by anti-tank obstacles 
They were manned permanently. For the same purpose, fortified 
posts covering important road junctions were constructed near 
the frontier at Homburg, Henrichapelle, Dolhain, Jalhaye, and 

M In m the y 'gaps between the old forts, a beginning was made in 
1934 with the construction of flanking casemates for automatic 

^AfteTthese measures of security had been taken, the construc- 
tion was begun of a new fortified line comprising the new forts 
of Eben-Emael, Neufchateau, Battice, and Pepinster, and a 
number of flanking casemates for automatic weapons were 
constructed in the gaps between these works. 

From the frontier to the Meuse there were several lines along 
which provision had been made for the destruction of roads and 
bridges, the efficacy of which depended on fire from the new 
and old forts. 


98 APPENDIX 16 

The fortified town was also provided with an underground 
telephone system, control-rooms, a planned road system, gun- 
emplacements for heavy artillery on railway-tracks, stores of 
ammunition and materials. To guard, maintain, and man all 
these fortifications and to carry out demolition work it was 
necessary to form special units on a voluntary basis. These 
consisted of battalions of cyclist frontier guards. 

In the Provinces of Limburg and Antwerp 

The defences had necessarily to follow the water-lines. De- 
fensive structures were established, in the first place, along the 
canal from Maastricht to Bois-le-Duc and the canal joining the 
Meuse and the Escaut. They consisted of : 

Casemates for automatic weapons enfilading the water-level 
and pillboxes covering the bridges ; 

Arrangements for flooding and demolition work. 

As the Albert Canal was cut, similar works were constructed. 
They were finished in 1939. 

The Limburg structures, when completed, were linked up with 
the fortified town of Li£ge by the Eben-Emael fort. 

In the Provinces of Namur and Luxemburg 

The defence system was based on the fortified town of Namur, 
which was rearmed and modernized on the same lines as the 
fortified town of Liege (ring of old forts ; pillboxes in the gaps, 
line of pillboxes against invasion, fortified posts on the frontier, 
progressive lines of demolition). In order to take advantage of 
the broken Ardennes country, a division of “Chasseurs Ardennais,” 
specially trained in skirmishing, was formed. Tactics of this 
kind, which would be facilitated by the valleys and by demolition 
work, were calculated to inflict heavy losses on an invader and 
to cause considerable delay. 

From 1936 onward , the Government was obliged, because of 
the repudiation by Germany of the military clauses of the Treaty 
of Versailles and the Treaty of Locarno, to strengthen the 
national defence system still further. Its aim was to build up a 
military machine sufficiently strong to discourage Belgium’s 
neighbours from attempting to use Belgium as a battlefield or 
as a base for an attack. From the military standpoint, the risks 
involved by the changed situation in Europe had two conse- 
quences : 

1. It became necessary to strengthen the protective measures. 

The period of military service was extended to a year, and a 
considerable part of the contingent in the 1937-41 classes was 
required to do seventeen months’ service. 


appendix 16 99 

2. It became necessary to modify the fortified system. 

The concrete and iron framework established on the frontier 
on the Antwerp-Liege-Namur line could no longer be used as 
the backbone for a position of resistance. The Belgian Army 
could not hold a front over 200 km. long. 

In 1939, the construction of a fortified position on the Antwerp- 
Namur line was begun. This position, known as K.W. from 
the names of the terminal points (Koningshoyckt and Wavre), 
consisted of a number of works disposed on several lines. They 
were protected in front by a continuous anti-tank barricade and 
by flooding, whilst anti-tank traps were set deep in the position. 
An underground telephone system and a planned road system 
completed the equipment of the position. These works were 
completed in May 1940. 

II. Increase in the Number of Effectives on a War Footing 

In 1930 the Belgian Army had one cavalry corps consisting of 
two divisions and three army corps each consisting of two 
divisions of infantry on a war footing. It was obvious that its 
military machine was inadequate. Six reserve divisions (with 
the same composition as the divisions on active service) were 
therefore put into working order. In 1936 it was decided to 
organize six divisions of the second reserve. For protective 
purposes, a division of “ Chasseurs Ardennais ” was formed. 

In August 1939, the Belgian Army had on a war footing: 

1 cavalry corps consisting of 2 cavalry divisions and a brigade 
of motorized cavalry ; 

5 army corps and 2 reserve army corps, consisting in all of : 

12 divisions on active service and in the reserve; 

2 divisions of “ Chasseurs Ardennais ” ; 

6 divisions of the second reserve ; 

1 brigade of cyclist frontier guards. 

On May 10th, 1940, the Belgian Army consisted of 650,000 
regulars. 

It was the strongest Army Belgium had ever had. The order 
for general mobilization brought the strength up to over 900,000 
men, representing more than one-tenth of the population — that 
is to say, the maximum military effort of which a country is 
capable. 

III. Modernization and Augmentation of Arms 

A small, peaceful country must organize, train, and equip its 
Army for the defensive. 

Acting on this principle, the Belgian General Staff rejected 


100 


101 


APPENDIX 16 

a priori the idea of forming a military air force and armoured 
units and devoted the maximum credits to acquiring defensive 
weapons. 

The infantry was well-equipped with a very valuable anti-tank 
arm: the 47-mm. gun (sixty 47-mm. guns to each infantry 
division). It was provided with new bomb-throwers; its sub- 
machine-guns were renewed, the rifles being brought up to date, 
and the number of 75-mm. mortars was trebled. 

The artillery was expanded. Provision was made for increasing 
the number of groups in the infantry divisions from four to five 
and those in the Army Corps from four to six. As an experiment, 
part of the artillery of the Army Corps was motorized. A new 
Land Anti-Aircraft Defence Gun (40-mm. Bofors gun) was put 
into service. 

The light troops were completely motorized. Their mobility 
and radius of action were thus very considerably enlarged. 

Lastly, having regard to the primary importance of communi- 
cations in modern warfare, the Belgian Army was equipped with 
a considerable amount of first-rate telephone and wireless 
material. 





That, in broad outline, is a description of the military burden 
which Belgium took upon herself. No sacrifice in either men 
or money was spared. The number of army effectives on a war 
footing was over 10 per cent, of the population, a figure which 
was not reached by the belligerent nations during the 1914-18 
War. The expenditure incurred in setting up a military machine 
of this magnitude and in constructing our fortified system 
increased year by year, and in 1939 it amounted to 20 per cent, 
of the total budget. 

Appendix 17 

TEXT OF THE PROTEST COMMUNICATED BY THE 
BELGIAN GOVERNMENT TO THE FOREIGN GOVERN- 
MENTS FOLLOWING UPON THE GERMAN AGGRES- 
SION OF MAY 10TH, 1940 

Although Germany has not declared war, the German Army 
has just crossed the frontier of the Kingdom of Belgium and has 
attacked the Belgian Army with considerable forces. All the 
facts and all the documents in the possession of the Belgian 
Government prove that the aggression was premeditated. No 
complaint was brought to its notice before the act of aggression. 
Moreover, there was nothing in the relations between the two 
countries, for the most part good, to suggest that a conflict was 


APPENDIX 17 

likely to arise. The Belgian Government protests against this 
outrage. It points out that for the second time in twenty-five 
years Belgium has been the victim of an aggression by Germany. 
In its declaration of October 13th, 1937, the German Govern- 
ment solemnly confirmed its determination in no circumstances 
to impair the inviolability and integrity of Belgium and stated 
that “ it will at all times respect Belgian territory, except, of 
course, in the event of Belgium’s taking part in a military action 
directed against Germany in an armed conflict in which Germany 
is involved,” declaring that it was prepared to assist Belgium 
should she be subjected to an attack or to invasion. On August 
26th, in a spontaneous declaration, the German Government 
solemnly renewed its undertaking of October 13th, 1937. Since 
making the Declaration in 1937, Germany has on many occasions 
paid tribute to the correctness of the attitude maintained by 
Belgium. Public opinion is unanimous in recognizing that the 
Belgian Government has done everything in its power to avert 
the scourge of war which threatened Europe. On the eve of the 
European War, the Kin g of the Belgians, in conjunction with the 
Heads of other States, and more particularly with Her Majesty 
the Queen of the Netherlands, took steps to avert the danger. 
It is sufficient to recall the appeal made from Brussels on August 
23rd, 1939, on behalf of the Heads of the States of the Oslo 
Group and the offer of good offices on the 29th of the same 
month. A further offer of good offices was made on November 
7th by the Queen of the Netherlands and the King of the Belgians, 
with a view to facilitating enquiry into points on which agreement 
could be reached. During the conflict, Belgium has always 
observed strict and scrupulous neutrality. She was attacked 
suddenly at dawn. The aggression was consummated when the 
Government appealed to the guarantor Powers. Just as in 
August 1914, Germany violated Belgian neutrality which she had 
guaranteed in virtue of the treaties of April 19th, 1839, so to-day 
she has attacked Belgium in contravention of an undertaking 
contracted in 1937 and renewed in 1939, the validity of which is 
not open to question. As in 1914, an act of aggression against a 
neutral State, while not justified in itself, is made worse by the 
violation of undertakings that had been entered into. This new 
outrage will deeply shock the conscience of the world. The 
German Reich will be held responsible by history for the suffer- 
ings which this act of aggression will inflict on the Belgian people. 
Belgium has never accepted servitude. She will suffer her ordeal 
courageously. The Belgian Army will defend Belgian national 
territory with all its force, with the help of Belgium’s guarantors, 
who will not fail to fulfil their promises. 

TxP 


102 APPENDIX 18 


Appendix 18 

PROCLAMATION BY KING LEOPOLD, MAY 10TH, 1940 

Belgians, for the second time in a quarter of a century, Belgium 
—a loyal and neutral country— has been attacked by the German 
Empire in spite of the most solemn undertakings contracted before 
the "whole world. The Belgian people, who are fundamentally 
peaceful, have done everything in their power to prevent this, but 
between sacrifice and dishonour the Belgian of 1940 will hesitate 
no more than did the Belgian of 1914. 

By awaiting the actual violation of our territory before appeal- 
ing to our two guarantors, who have remained faithful to their 
promises, we have most loyally fulfilled to the last the duties of 
neutrality. 

To our valiant Army, to our courageous soldiers, I address the 
greetings of the country. In them we place complete confidence. 
Worthy successors of the heroes of 1914, they will fight shoulder 
to shoulder to stop the onrush of the enemy through our provinces 
and to restrict the area of our national territory which is violated 
by the invader. 

Thanks to the efforts which our country agreed to make, our 
fighting forces are infinitely more powerful than they were in 
1914. 

France and Great Britain have promised to help us. Their 
advance troops are already pushing forward to join up with ours. 
The fight will be hard. Great sacrifices and deprivation will be 
asked of you. But there can be no doubt about the final victory. I 
intend to remain faithful to my constitutional oath to maintain 
the independence and integrity of the territory. Like my father 
in 1914, 1 have put myself at the head of the Army with the same 
faith, the same clear conscience. The cause of Belgium is pure. 
With the help of God it will triumph. 


Appendix 19 

TRANSLATION OF TEXT BELOW MAP 
Comrades ! 

Here is the situation ! 

In any case, the war is over for you ! 

Your "leaders are going to escape by airplane. 

Lay down your arms ! 



Camarades! 

Telle est la situation! 

En tout cas, la guerre est finie pour vousl 
Vos chefs vont s’enfuir par avion. 

A bas les armes! 

British Soldiers 1 

Look at this map; it gives your true situation I 
Your troops are entirely surrounded — 
stop fighting! 

Put down your arms! 

Copy of German Leaflets dropped in the Belgian Lines 


8 


103 


104 


APPENDIX 20 


Appendix 20 

KING LEOPOLD’S ORDER OF THE DAY, MAY 25TH, 1940 
Translation of Text in Flemish and French 
Soldiers : 

The great battle which we were expecting has commenced. 

It will be hard. We will carry it on with all our strength and 
with supreme energy. 

It is being fought on the ground where in 1914 we stood 
victoriously against the invader. 

Soldiers : 

Belgium expects that you will do honour to her Flag. 

Officers and Men: 

Whatever happens, my fate will be yours. 

I ask of you all firmness, discipline, trust. 

Our cause is just and pure. 

Providence will help us. 

Long Live Belgium ! 


In the field, the 25th of May , 1940. 


Leopold. 




Appendix 21 

STATEMENT BY LIEUT.-COL. ROBERT DUNCAN 
BROWN, UNITED STATES MILITARY ATTACHE TO 
BELGIUM AND LUXEMBURG 

The German Armies in May 1940, supported by immense Air 
Power, drove west into Holland, Belgium, and France, quickly 
conquered Holland and broke the hinge of Allied Defence at 
Sedan. The Sedan break-through compelled the retreat of all 
Northern Allied forces and separated the British and Belgian 
Forces from the French Main Forces. A French counter-attack 
against the German spear-head aimed at Abbeville might have 
re-established the situation but this counter-attack never 
developed. 

The Belgian Army fought doggedly on successive retreat 
positions and at last found themselves completely cut off with 
their backs to the sea. Their artillery had fought with extreme 


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106 APPENDIX 21 

brilliancy, their large units were well led. However, they were 
cut off and they had virtually no air power or anti-aircraft 
artillery protection against German air might. 

The Belgian King’s capitulation on May 28th was the only 
thing that King Leopold could do. Those who say otherwise 
didn’t see the fighting and they didn’t see the German Air Force. 
I saw both. 

Robert Duncan Brown. 

October 31 st, 1940. 


Appendix 22 

HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE 
June 13 th f 1941 

King’s Bench Division 

Sir Roger Keyes v. Daily Mirror Newspapers Limited 
Before Mr. Justice Tucker 

Sir Patrick Hastings, K.C., and Mr. Valentine Holmes appear 
for Sir Roger Keyes ; Mr. G. O. Slade for the defendants. 

Statement made by Sir Patrick Hastings : 

This is an action for libel brought by Admiral of the Fleet 
Sir Roger Keyes against the Daily Mirror Newspapers Limited 
in consequence of an article which appeared in the Daily Mirror 
newspaper of May 30th, 1940. 

The Germans invaded Belgium on May 10th, and a few 
hours later Sir Roger Keyes, at the request of our Government, 
left England by aeroplane to join King Leopold as special liaison 
officer. He was with the King at the Headquarters of his Army 
throughout the brief campaign in Belgium, and at the same time 
was in close touch with the Headquarters of the British Army 
and with the Government. He remained with King Leopold 
until 10 p.m. on the night of May 27th, the day on which 
King Leopold asked the Germans for an armistice. During that 
time he had unrivalled opportunities of observing the course 
of events. 

On May 28th, Mr. Churchill announced in the House of 
Commons that the surrender had taken place and asked that 
judgment about the matter should be suspended until the facts 
were known. 

Sir Roger Keyes on the same day, in the lobby, echoed the 
same advice and trusted that judgment on King Leopold, a very 


APPENDIX 22 107 

gallant soldier, should be suspended till all the facts became 
known. 

This advice did not appeal to the persons responsible for the 
conduct of the Daily Mirror newspaper, and on May 30th 
that paper published a diatribe attacking violently not only the 
King of the Belgians but also Sir Roger Keyes. 

How far justified Sir Roger was in his advice to suspend 
judgment is now beginning to be understood. 

King Leopold, when his country was invaded, had placed 
himself and his Army under the French High Command, and the 
movements of his Army conformed with the orders of the French 
Command. 

On May 20th, the British Army and French Northern Army 
were ordered to prepare to fight to the south-westward to 
regain contact with the main French Army, and unless the 
Belgian Army could conform to this movement it was clear that 
it would involve a breach of contact between the British and 
Belgian Armies. 

Sir Roger informed the King of the order, and he was asked by 
the King to inform the British Government and Lord Gort that 
the Belgian Army had neither tanks nor aircraft and existed 
solely for defence. He did not feel he had any right to expect 
the British Government to jeopardize, perhaps, the very existence 
of the British Army in order to keep contact with the Belgian 
Army, but he wished to make it quite clear that if there were 
a separation between the two Armies, the capitulation of the 
Belgian Army would be inevitable. 

At the request of the French High Command the Belgian 
Army was withdrawn on May 23rd from the strongly prepared 
position on the Scheldt to a much weaker and longer line on the 
Lys, to allow the British Army to retire behind the defensive 
frontier line which it had occupied throughout the winter, in 
order to prepare for the offensive it was about to undertake to 
the southward. 

On the evening of May 26th, a break through the Belgian 
fine by the Germans seemed to be inevitable and the King moved 
the remaining French 60th Division in Belgian vehicles to a 
prepared position across the Yser, which by now was flooded 
over a wide area and its bridges mined. 

Fighting on the Belgian front had been continuous for four 
days, and the Belgian Army, by May 27th, was running short 
of food and ammunition and was being attacked by at least 
eight German divisions, including armoured units and wave after 
wave of dive bombers. 

On the morning of May 27th, the King asked Sir Roger to 


108 


109 


APPENDIX 22 

inform the British authorities that he would be obliged to 
surrender before a debacle took place. A similar message was 
given to the French. 

By the afternoon of that day the German Army had driven 
a wedge between the Belgian and British Armies. Every road, 
village, and town in the small part of Belgium left in Belgian 
hands was thronged with hundreds of thousands of refugees, and 
men, women, and children were being mercilessly bombed and 
machine-gunned by low-flying aircraft. 

In these circumstances, at 5 p.m. on the 27th, King Leopold 
informed the British and French authorities that he intended at 
midnight of that day to ask for an armistice so as to avoid 
further slaughter of his people. 

This message, like the earlier one on the same day, was 
promptly received in London and Paris, but all communications 
with the British Army were cut, and though wireless messages 
were repeatedly made, it is now known that these did not reach 
the Commanders-in- Chief. 

Sir Roger Keyes, knowing these facts as he did, with a number 
of details that are unnecessary for the purposes of this statement, 
felt more than justified in suggesting a suspension of judgment on 
the King, and he quite naturally resented the insult and injury of 
the article in the Daily Mirror attacking him. He immediately 
saw his solicitors and the present action was started. 

The defence to the action pleaded that the words of the libel, 
so far as they were statements of fact were true in substance and 
in fact, and so far as they were expressions of opinion that they 
were fair comment. 

Wiser counsel subsequently prevailed, and this defence was 
withdrawn by a letter from the Defendants’ Solicitors in the 
following words : 





Dear Sirs, 


Temple Chambers, 

Temple Avenue, E.C.4. 
October 9th , 1940. 

Keyes v. Daily Mirror 


Our Clients have been advised by Counsel that as a matter 
of law their defence of fair comment in this action cannot succeed 
unless they can substantiate the statements of fact in the article 
complained of with reference to the conduct of King Leopold. 

Our Clients are not in a position to prove these statements 
to be true and we should accordingly be glad if you would treat 
this letter as a formal notice that their plea of fair comment will 
no longer be relied upon. 


APPENDIX 22 

Whether the strictures passed upon King Leopold by, 
amongst others, the Prime Minister of France, were in fact 
justified, our Clients have no means of knowing; all they can say 
is that if there was the slightest doubt about the matter, nothing 
could have been more dignified and proper than your Client’s 
request for a suspension of judgment upon King Leopold and 
nothing more creditable than that your Client should have made 
the request at the time that he did, when everyone’s hand was 
against the King. 

As the whole criticism of your Client in the article complained 
of was based upon facts which our Clients then believed and had 
the highest possible authority for believing to be true, but which 
they must now assume to be untrue, it follows that every vestige 
of foundation for such criticism disappears, and our Clients are 
accordingly desirous of making honourable amends to your 
Client, who has acted throughout in accordance with the highest 
traditions of honour and justice. 

Our Clients invite your Client to say what he would like them 
to do as an earnest of their sincerity in making this offer, since 
they feel that he will not want to fasten too much responsibility 
upon them for acting upon information coming from sources 
which they had every right to regard as unimpeachable. 

Upon this last aspect of the case our Clients will be serving 
a notice in mitigation of damages if it should still be necessary 
for this action to proceed to trial. 

Yours faithfully, 

Shirley Woolmer & Co. 

Messrs. Alfred Cox & Son, 

37, Norfolk Street, 

Strand, W.C.2. 


After this withdrawal and the acceptance and publication of 
the foregoing statement, there was nothing left of the action 
except the question of damages, and these have now been agreed. 

The further account of the proceedings was given by The 
Times of June 14th, 1941, as follows : 

Mr. Slade said that his Lordship would observe from the 
papers before him how unimpeachable had been the defendants’ 
sources of information as to the conduct ascribed to the King 
of the Belgians in seeking an armistice from the Germans on 
May 27th, 1940. The defendants accepted without reservation 
the statement just made by Sir Patrick Hastings, from which it 
would appear that they had been entirely misled. They welcomed 


no 


appendix 22 


the opportunity of repeating in open Court the sentiments 
expressed in their solicitors’ letter of October 9th, 1940. 

Sir Roger Keyes’s dignified and fair-minded attitude towards 
the King of the Belgians had been abundantly justified* and the 
defendants tendered to the gallant Admiral a sincere apology 
for their criticism of him, coupled with an expression of their 

appreciation of his conduct and bearing throughout. 

The matter did not, however, end there. It was apparent 
from the facts stated on behalf of Sir Roger Keyes that a very 
grave injustice had been done to the King of the Belgians, who, 
like Sir Roger Keyes, had acted throughout m accordance with 
the highest^traditions of honour and justice The defendants 
accordingly wished to take advantage of the opportunity to 
tender also to King Leopold, who was not now in a position to 
defend himself, their most sincere and r ® s P ec f u ^ ap ?l?^ ^ 
injustice which they had unwittingly done him. They hoped 
that if and when their apology came to the knowledge of King 
Leopold he would accept it in the spirit in which it was offered. 

Mr Justice Tucker, in assenting to the settlement and to the 
withdrawal of the record, said that this libel action, unlike some 
others appeared to have served a most useful purpose, and the 
statement? which had been made would give very wide satis- 

Solicitors : — Messrs. Alfred Cox & Son; Messrs. Shirley 
Woolmer & Co. 


Made and Printed in Great Britain by 
Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ltd. 
London and Aylesbury.